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Tobacco inquiry: Democrats call for Federal Government to fund legal action.

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Australian Democrats Press Releases

Senator Lyn Allison Deputy Parliamentary Leader and Democrats Senator for Victoria Australian Democrats spokesperson for Health and Ageing

Dated: 01 October 2004 Press Release Number: 04/991 Portfolio: Health and Ageing

Tobacco Inquiry: Democrats Call For Federal Government To Fund Legal Action

The Australian Democrats called on the Federal Government to provide funding for the ACCC to launch legal action against the tobacco companies to recover costs of misleading and deceptive conduct.

The recommendation was made in a report tabled yesterday of the Senate Inquiry into the Democrats Bill tightening tobacco advertising, the ALP bill banning donations from tobacco companies to political parties and the ACCCs failure to act on tobacco companies.

Senator Lyn Allison, Democrats Health spokesperson said the inquiry makes it clear that the Trade Practices Act is not being used to pursue tobacco companies because the Coalition has starved the ACCC of the necessary fighting funds. It is also clear that the ACCC could have stopped tobacco companies deceiving smokers with descriptors like 'mild' and 'light' on cigarette packs.

"Unlike in the US, the laws protecting consumers in Australia are have not been enforced and very sick individuals like Miriam Cauvin have had to shoulder the burden of taking tobacco companies to court.

"Funding to allow our trade practices watchdog to do its job would be repaid many times over in recovered health costs if there was a will on the part of the Coalition to move against tobacco companies.

"Tobacco related illness costs Australia an estimated $21b a year a cost borne by addicted smokers and taxpayers. Meanwhile, tobacco companies make billions from their deceptive practices.

"Clinical trials in the US demonstrated years ago that cigarettes labelled 'mild', 'light', 'menthol' and 'low tar' 95% of current sales are no less harmful than other cigarettes and yet the ACCC has allowed the deception to continue, now negotiating with tobacco companies over a timeframe for removing them."

The report also reveals the ACCCs intention to make tobacco companies pay for 'corrective' advertising and community awareness programs on the misleading descriptors and fund quit campaigns.

The Democrats recommendations include:

The ALPs Electoral Amendment Bill and the Democrats Tobacco Advertising Prohibition (Film, Internet and Misleading Promotion) Amendment Bill 2004 proceed, with amendments;

Government funding for the ACCC to take legal action against tobacco companies;

The tobacco industry fund corrective advertising, awareness programs and quit measures;

Prohibit descriptors such as 'mild' and 'light' as soon as possible.