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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1554

Ms ROWLAND (12:49 PM) —I rise to speak in support of the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Bill 2010, and I do so as a former smoker. I know only too well the damage that I have done to my own body by smoking and I firmly believe that the government has a responsibility to encourage smokers to quit and to discourage people—especially young people—from taking it up.

At the core of this bill is the unfortunate reality that every time you smoke a cigarette you are contributing to your own demise. Recent anti-smoking ads tell us that if you are smoker, lung cancer does not discriminate. We should not exempt tobacco advertising from the prohibition simply because that advertising it is delivered on a particular platform.

I also support this bill due to an unfortunate reality that exists in my electorate of Greenway. According to the New South Wales Department of Health, Western Sydney, where most of my electorate lies, experiences some the highest rates of avoidable deaths from causes amenable to health care. This research shows 77.4 per cent of males under the age of 75 will die of avoidable deaths. A study undertaken by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2007 compared lung cancer mortality rates amongst people living in Western Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales and Australia. This study found that people in Western Sydney experienced the highest lung cancer mortality rate when compared to the aforementioned regions, and this is why I have a special responsibility to my electorate to support this bill.

Labor has a proud anti-smoking record. In April last year, the government announced its plans to increase tobacco excise by 25 per cent. We have invested record amounts in anti-smoking social marketing campaigns and we have proposed legislation to mandate plain packaging of tobacco products. But we can always do more to reduce smoking rates and that is why I am very pleased to speak in support of this bill.

This legislation builds on the government’s proud record of taking action against smoking, making it an offence to advertise tobacco products on the internet and in other forms of electronic media, such as mobile devices or computers. As the bill’s explanatory memorandum states:

The offence provisions contained in section 15A of the proposed amendments will apply to any person who publishes in Australia a tobacco advertisement in the Internet or via any electronic means.

The bill extends the definition of the term ‘published in Australia’ to include circumstances whereby the advertisement did not originate in Australia or where the origin is unknown and the advertiser had a significant Australian connection. This could include a situation in which the publisher is an Australian citizen, a permanent resident, a foreign person in Australia or a foreign entity. Consequently, the offence provisions would have, to some extent, extraterritorial operation. The maximum penalty offence under these amendments is $13,200.

As members would be aware, the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 banned most forms of tobacco advertising, specifically the broadcasting and publication of messages and images promoting the use of tobacco products. This was a response to an increase in incidental advertising by tobacco companies, specifically through the sponsorship of major sporting events and competitions. For example, the Cancer Council highlights the fact that in 1980 the biggest sponsors of sport in Australia were Phillip Morris, Amatil and Rothmans, who also happened to be the three largest tobacco companies in the country at that time.

Like the member for Dobell, I remember growing up and watching the cricket on TV over the summer holidays and the Benson & Hedges logo was plastered in nearly every shot. In fact, the Cancer Council’s research reports that the Benson & Hedges name received a full 88 minutes of televised coverage on just one day of the Sydney test in 1988. Similarly, a longstanding sponsorship arrangement between Rothmans-Winfield and the New South Wales Rugby League required the league to assist Rothmans in the advertising and promoting of Rothmans’ products. To achieve this objective, the league was required to fly the Winfield flags at all competition matches, to play the Winfield theme music at matches, to refer to the competition as the Winfield Premiership, to display the Winfield and Rothmans logos at match venues, and to display floats and other visuals featuring Rothmans’ products during the grand final.

Such a blatant means of promoting tobacco now seems highly inappropriate; however, at the time it was considered the norm. It was a dangerous norm that directly contributed to an uptake of smoking by many people, especially young people. Considering the popularity of sport in Australia, the close connection between tobacco companies and sporting competitions would have glamorised smoking. Indeed, there is a paradox in linking tobacco advertising and sport. As Stephen Martin, who as a member of this place in 1992 and who introduced the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Bill to the House, said:

There can hardly be a more bizarre association than that between a product which is known to be a killer and the health giving nature of sport.

The bill that was introduced in 1992, and subsequently passed, put an end to this insidious practice. However, there is no way that the law-makers of 1992 could have foreseen the rapid expansion of the internet and the development of online advertising. The growth of the internet and online advertising has in turn created an element of ambiguity as to how the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act should be applied. I am pleased that this legislation addresses this ambiguity.

Study after study shows a clear link between tobacco advertising and rates of smoking, and in turn there is a clear link between tobacco advertising and smoking related diseases. For instance, it is estimated that banning tobacco advertising could lead to a reduction in smoking by six per cent. It is also clear that incomplete or ambiguous bans on tobacco advertising have a limited effect on reducing smoking levels. A 2000 study published in the Journal of health economics, ‘The effect of tobacco advertising bans on tobacco consumption’ argued that incomplete bans have had:

… little or no effect (on smoking rates) because companies transfer expenditure to media in which advertising is still allowed.

There is one other point I would like to raise—that is, the issue of political donations from tobacco companies. I believe it is wrong. Despite the fact that tobacco is a known killer, the coalition knows that it receives money from tobacco companies. I would like to note that the Labor Party does not receive funding from the tobacco industry. This industry makes a product that is responsible for the deaths of over 15,000 Australians every year, costing the economy $31.5 billion per annum. This loss of life and the social costs can be prevented by a reduction in the level of smoking across our community. This issue requires leadership and this is the government to provide that, as was evident in Labor’s decision to stop taking money from tobacco companies in 2004. I urge those opposite who have been touched by preventable deaths from cancer—and statistics tell us that it is just about all of us—to make a principled stand on the issue. I assure you the community will back you, those on this side of the House will back you and the children of those parents who will die from lung cancer will also back you.

The prohibition of tobacco advertising has a central role to play in reducing the rates of smoking, particularly amongst young people. Young people who smoke occasionally or socially become heavier smokers as they become older and have greater difficulty quitting. This becomes even more alarming when we consider the fact that only five years ago seven per cent of young people aged 12 to 15 years and 17 per cent of young people aged 16 to 17 years were smokers.

The popularity of new media technology amongst our youth has allowed advertising to access our young people in extremely pervasive and indirect ways. Targeted ads are a form of internet marketing. Using sophisticated data-collecting technologies, websites can combine a user’s personal information with surfing preferences to create ads that are specifically tailored for that user. On Facebook alone there are over 200,000 people who list smoking as an interest, allowing advertisers to specifically target this group of people and their friends. It is no secret that those besieged by smoking advertisers are our young people. I believe this worrying reality can be curtailed by passing this bill.

Blacktown City Council, in which much of my electorate lies, has the highest number of smoking attributable hospitalisations compared to any other local government area in New South Wales. For this reason I believe I have a special obligation as a member in this place to support measures that reduce the rates of smoking across our community, and that is what I will be doing by voting in favour of this bill.