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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1547

Dr SOUTHCOTT (12:19 PM) —I would like to speak on the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Bill 2010 and make some remarks on behalf of the opposition. The opposition will be giving its support to this bill. Everyone understands the importance of promoting positive health outcomes and encouraging healthier lifestyles amongst all Australians. We in this House all have a common desire to achieve a healthier society. The coalition believes that it is important to focus on preventative health. Treating people with chronic, preventable diseases helps alleviate the substantial economic and social costs and helps alleviate a very significant burden on out healthcare system.

Approximately a third of Australia’s burden of disease is attributable to modifiable risk factors, and tobacco smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable chronic disease amongst Australians. The National Preventative Health Taskforce identified that tobacco is currently the single biggest preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. Over three million people—that is, approximately 18 per cent of Australians aged 14 years and over—still smoke, with almost 2.9 million people smoking on a daily basis. About half of these smokers who smoke for prolonged periods will die early. This cost the community $31½ billion in 2004-05. Incredibly, almost one in five pregnant women report smoking during pregnancy, including 42 per cent of teenagers and 54 per cent of Indigenous women. This poses serious risks to the mothers and has long-lasting and far-reaching effects on their offspring. For every 1,000 smokers who quit, at least 40 will be spared a diagnosis of chronic illness.

So the figures are very clear. While reducing the incidence of smoking has been one of the success stories in health promotion over the last 20 or 30 years, it is clear that it has not all been in one direction. When the effort is not substantial, the smoking rates do plateau. It is obvious that the successes in health promotion here have been the result of actions by government, by the health professions and by individuals themselves in reducing the rates of smoking.

Australia has, overall, one of the lower smoking rates in the OECD and one of the lower smoking rates in the world. But, as the Preventative Health Task Force identifies, there are wide variations in the prevalence of smoking. Smoking remains very high in our Indigenous population, it is high in lower socioeconomic groups and it is high in groups with low education as well.

Of the actions that have been taken in the past, I am very proud that the coalition, when in government, changed the taxation of tobacco from a per weight basis to a per stick basis. That was a recommendation in the context of the new tax system in 2000, which was supported by all of the health groups and was seen as an important tobacco control measure. We, in opposition, also proposed an increase in the tobacco excise per stick in the Leader of the Opposition’s budget reply in 2009.

What this bill does is to update the legislation with regard to tobacco advertising. The Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act was introduced in 1992 at a time when advertising on the internet was much less widespread. This legislation makes it an offence to advertise tobacco products on the internet and in other electronic media. By restricting internet advertising of tobacco products in Australia, this goes some way to targeting smoking and its harmful effects. At present there is a lack of clarity over the regulations governing advertising on the internet. This legislation aligns tobacco advertising in the electronic media with restrictions in other media and at other retail points of sale.

This bill does not ban sales on the internet but bans advertising on the internet. It also makes it a requirement that the health guidelines and the health warnings are included in internet sales. For example, Coles and Woolworths do sell tobacco in their online sales, but this legislation will make clear the requirements for those online sales. Logos, pictures of packages and so on are not allowed under this legislation.

The Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act, which this is amending, currently governs the advertising of tobacco products in Australia. Currently, it bans advertisements via print and electronic media such as TV, radio, film et cetera. However, when the act was passed back in 1992, the use of the internet was not nearly as widespread as it is now. Consequently, the regulation application of the legislation was designed for more conventional media platforms.

On behalf of the opposition, I have engaged in extensive consultation with key stakeholders and there was widespread support for this legislation. Of course, the health groups and the anticancer groups are very supportive of tighter regulations for tobacco. The tobacco companies also did not see any issues with this legislation for them.

The coalition are supporting the passage of this legislation because we recognise there is more to be done in the area of preventative health and there is still more to be done in the area of tobacco control. We will be supporting this legislation and its objectives.