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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1595

Mr HAYES (3:56 PM) —I also acknowledge Mary O’Neill as a neighbour of mine, notwithstanding the fact that she is the mother of the member for Robertson. Mary, well done.

I also rise to lend my support to the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Amendment Bill 2010. I am proud to follow a number of speakers, including the member for Robertson, who gave a very salient dissertation on the issues of smoking. In a modern society there can be no doubt that smoking remains one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease among Australians. It is responsible for killing over 15,000 Australians every year. Leaving aside the emotional costs of that toll, the social costs are estimated at $31.5 billion. When we get carried away looking at budgetary requirements we should factor in real numbers like that, which actually show you the costs to the community as a consequence of smoking. I have looked at statistics such as these which show the harmful effects of smoking, the damage it does to people and to the wider community, what it does to families, and the importance of government doing as much as it can to reduce the appeal of smoking and discourage young Australians from taking up smoking.

While we have very strong laws on cigarette advertising, there are some loopholes, particularly with respect to internet advertising. I think the member for Robertson is right: with the preponderance of social networking sites, this is an area where those wishing to advance the cause of the tobacco industry have had the opportunity, almost a free rein, to advertise and encourage young people to take up cigarette smoking. I strongly support the intended effect of this bill to make it a specific offence to advertise and promote tobacco products on the internet or on other electronic media and using a range of technologies. In order to reduce the appeal of smoking the government needs the power to regulate internet tobacco advertising and therefore I support the intention of the bill to enable regulation in respect of the prescribed size, content, format and location of tobacco advertising, as well as any other health warnings and information, regardless of fees that must accompany any such advertisement.

I got the Parliamentary Library to conduct some research for me on Australians aged 14 and older who had not previously smoked. I was astounded to find that they had their first cigarette at 15.1 years of age for males and at 16.1 years—one year later—for females. That is a pretty alarming statistic. It shows that the group targeted by cigarette companies is high-school kids.

The Cancer Council of Victoria’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer led a nationally conducted study resulting in the report Smoking behaviours in Australian secondary students in 2005. They found that over 140,000 Australian schoolkids between 12 and 17 were smokers at that time. That equated to seven per cent of all 12- to 15-year-olds and 17 per cent of all 16- to 17-year-olds. For anyone who has raised children, that is of concern and it is something that, as I see my grandkids growing up, I certainly want to stay alert to. We know that the early uptake of smoking is also associated with heavier smoking and also greater difficulty in giving up smoking. We should be concerned about these statistics. We should be doing everything that we can to discourage smoking and to reduce the appeal, particularly to our younger people, of taking up cigarette smoking. That is why I support the bill and its intended effect: to clarify the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 by prescribing, among other things, requirements as to age restricted access systems for access to tobacco advertisements.

I support the government’s decision to legislate for mandatory plain paper packaging of tobacco products from July 2012. Again, this is something that goes with the general theme of making smoking less attractive to young people so they do not take it up. Harking back to the late fifties and sixties, I can remember—and you are probably the same age as me, Mr Deputy Speaker, so you would too—black-and-white TV sets, with the Marlboro Man ads and all the other things that were put out there to encourage people, not kids, to relate to and think they would take on another persona simply by smoking that brand of cigarette. Any advertising that occurs now, as the research shows, is not so much targeted at adults; it is absolutely targeted at the growing market, and that market is kids.

A couple of weeks ago, I put out a press release in my electorate with a couple of doctors. I would particularly like to thank Dr Sang Giang Phan, a Vietnamese doctor in Cabramatta, for pointing out a number of things about cigarette advertising. What he was particularly concerned about was that we should be doing more and more to encourage and help people to kick the habit by using the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. That has now come to pass. Smokers can now take advantage of nicotine patches under the PBS to break the habit. I think that is a good thing. I know there are a lot of people, who still argue, ‘That’s everyone’s personal choice,’ but we are talking about an addiction, and kicking an addiction is difficult. I know and, certainly, people who are addicted to smoking know that it is not a matter of choice for them.

The University of Adelaide conducted various research studies into smoking. The important part to me was that they determined that, in the Fairfield LGA, 26.1 per percent of males are current smokers and, in Liverpool, at the other end of my electorate, it is 24.5 per cent. Those figures are still well above the national average of 22 per cent of the community being smokers. Further, from the university’s figures, 26 per cent of females in the Fairfield LGA and 24½ per cent of females in Liverpool are smokers. Again, these are alarming figures. They show that we have a challenge in front of us, one that means that we have to make a solid commitment—we have to commit not only our minds but also resources and, in this case, legislative support—to make smoking less attractive. We need to do something about combating these figures, clearly. These alarming figures show that smoking is an issue, certainly in my electorate of Fowler. It is further evidence of why I support the intention of the bill. The thing that underlines all this is that I know that, of all the deaths of smokers that occur—whether it is a car accident, a heart attack or any other tragedy—50 per cent are tobacco related. The hit rate of tobacco on not only the health but also the mortality of Australians is that high.

As I said, I understand that quitting smoking is often difficult and stressful, but I urge people who smoke to think about their families and their children. I know that the member for Robertson spoke of her younger brother, Eamon, whom I know from schooldays. I have the same situation with my son Jonathon. Jonathon is a builder. He was probably smoking for some time before I became aware of it—so from his early 20s on. He is a very lucky kid; he has a very precious daughter, Kyani. This is how I put it to him these days: ‘You know the health risks associated with smoking and you also know how central you are to your daughter’s life. You need to make decisions based around that.’ Hopefully, that gets through, because it is not just about the impact of smoking on the person who smokes—and I do understand the issue of addiction—but also about the impact it has on your dependants and the others you love in your life. Sometimes I think you have to put it in that way to encourage people to break the habit to do the right thing, in this case, for their families.

While I know the changes that are proposed in the bill may not be popular with everybody—I know that some take the view that accessing the internet should not be subject to any restrictions at all—I believe that they are responsible insofar as they encourage smokers to quit and discourage young people in particular from taking up smoking in the first place. In our modern world, technology rapidly evolves and social networking plays an ever-increasingly influential role, so I am told. I am not a regular practitioner of these things, but I know from my own kids the role it does have. It is for everything from shopping online, accessing theatre tickets and a whole host of other things to working out what your family and your friends are up to. If that space were invaded by cigarette advertising, it would become patently clear who the target market is for cigarette companies: because cigarette smoking is probably starting to slow at the older end of society, they are aiming to increase the take-up rate at the younger end, from school age and beyond.

The amendments will apply to tobacco advertising on social networking sites and, therefore, I hope will have a distinct impact in making smoking less attractive, particularly for young people. As a father, it is one thing I discourage greatly. I know what the statistics are. It is not about going out there and lecturing family members about what they should and should not do. But when we carefully consider those that we love, I think we have a collective responsibility to do everything we can to discourage smoking. I commend the bill to the House.