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Thursday, 10 November 2011
Page: 8820

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (12:28): The incorporated speech read as follows—

Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill

Mr Acting Deputy President, tobacco kills over 15,000 Australians every year, from cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

That's around 50 people a day.

It is the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in Australia.

In fact, smoking kills more people every year than road accidents, alcohol and other drugs combined.

Yet despite these statistics, despite most people knowing the dangers, 3 million Australians continue to smoke daily.

This Bill is one way to try to reduce the number of Australians who smoke and who take up smoking.

The Preventative Health Taskforce has told us that plain packaging will increase the impact of health warning messages, it will reduce the ability of tobacco companies to mislead consumers into believing that some cigarettes are less harmful than others, it will make cigarettes look less attractive and it will reduce the appeal and desirability of smoking generally.

This Bill is also in line with the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which recommends that plain packaging be considered as part of comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising.

Australia is the first signatory to the Framework and will be the first in the world to implement this recommendation.

The question is, will plain packaging work?

Well, if it isn't likely to reduce the number of smokers, I highly doubt the big tobacco companies would be as scared as they are.

Mr Acting Deputy President, tobacco is big business.

The equivalent of 1100 packs of 25 cigarettes are sold in Australia every minute.

In the last financial year, Australians spent $13.4 billion dollars on cigarettes and tobacco.

So it's not surprising that British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris, for example, are very worried about the impact this legislation will have on their bottom line.

Because plain packaging will go some way to reducing smoking.

Plain packaging will prohibit the use of all tobacco industry logos, brand imagery, colours and promotional text on the retail packaging of tobacco products.

And it will make every packet a drab green-brown colour.

Smoking may have a bit more of a taboo culture about it these days, but for many young Australians, the attractiveness of the habit is still there.

Of course, plain packaging on its own won't reduce smoking rates to 10 percent by 2018.

But, in conjunction with increasing the tobacco excise, alongside restrictions on internet advertising through a Bill that's about to be brought before the Senate, and with additional funding for anti-smoking social marketing, smoking in Australia may fall.

Mr Acting Deputy President, I note the concerns that have been raised by the tobacco companies about the impact this policy will have on Australia's international obligations with respect to trade marks.

But ultimately, I believe we need to do whatever we can to reduce smoking rates in Australia.

The Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill will remove the advertising for smoking which a cigarette packet does on its very own.

As one Philip Morris executive is reported to have said — "In the absence of any other marketing messages, our packaging ... is the sole communicator of our brand essence. Put another way, when you don't have anything else — our packaging is our marketing," he said.

Let's face it — a group of people are out at a café. Let's assume they're in a State where they can smoke in the outdoor area.

One pulls out a pack of cigarettes. They light up, and leave the pack on the table. That's advertising. Right there.

A smoker I know, for example, has admitted to me that they smoke the brand of cigarettes they saw all their friends smoking and, on occasion, this person will see someone smoking a different brand and they'll try one of their cigarettes "just to see".

And the only way this person knows to try a different brand is by the different coloured box, the different font, the different logos.

Mr Acting Deputy President, plain packaging will change this mindset.

It may not see a dramatic drop in smoking straight away, but I do believe plain packaging will, year by year, reduce the prevalence of smoking and most certainly it will reduce the uptake of smoking.

Tobacco companies spend big bucks in research and development of packaging.

They look at every minute detail — not just what colour the packet should be, but exactly what shade; they look at the fonts and the size of the letters and the spacing between words; they think about the size of the box, whether it's slim, wide or narrow ...

The packaging of each brand is different, tailored for men, for women, for the more expensive brands and for the cheaper brands.

Mr Acting Deputy President, plain packaging will remove the opportunities for tobacco companies to draw in its consumers.

Mr Acting Deputy President, I welcome the transition measures in the Bill for retailers, which will allow them to stock and sell both compliant and non-compliant cigarettes for a period of time.

This will enable them to sell continue to sell current stock while at the same time stocking their shelves with compliant products so there will not be a gap in supply and there will be minimal excess stock of non-compliant products.

Mr Acting Deputy President, whether you smoke or not, I think most people agree that we have to do something to reduce smoking in Australia.

This Bill is one key measure to achieve this and that is why I support this legislation.