Published: 24 March 2015

Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, as a health professional I fully support the principle and intent of the bill.  I congratulate the member for Windermere for pursuing the cause against smoking in our state.  The principle of this bill is seeking to provide a mechanism to prevent young people from taking up the harmful and addictive practice of smoking cigarettes. 


We know it is predominantly young people who take up smoking, often in an attempt to appear grown‑up, by engaging in an activity that is illegal until the age of 18 years.


It is an indisputable fact that smoking is harmful, not only to children - where harm can be more serious - but at any time in a person's life.  It is never safe to smoke.  It will always result in adverse health impacts.  I support a harm minimisation approach to such matters and believe that public education and a strong, clear community message are the most effective way to deal with this major health challenge.  Until individuals make an informed choice not to smoke, we will always have the problems and poor health outcomes of people who smoke, and those impacted by their actions will continue to suffer.


I am also aware of the concerns of small businesses that sell tobacco products.  I recognise they are selling a legal product, and they will continue to do so under this bill.  It only makes it illegal to sell to a small number in our community.


Many small business owners who sell tobacco products claim that this comprises a significant percentage of their business.  Unfortunately, this argument actually supports this bill.  They have also informed us of the abuse some of their staff experience when they ask for ID and/or refuse to sell a product to an individual but cannot demonstrate they are legally able to purchase it.  Such customer behaviour is not acceptable now, and it will not be acceptable if this bill is supported and becomes law.  It constitutes assault and should be dealt with accordingly.


I have spoken many times in this place about the terrible harm that smoking causes.  It is a practice that is, and will continue to be, legal if you are over the age of 18 years.  We should also not forget the harmful knock-on effects on innocent individuals exposed to passive smoking, in particular unborn babies and children.


I do not wish to restate the concerns of as many similar cases of harm as have been articulated by the member of Windermere, and no doubt other members may raise other instances of such harm.  We could all spend hours describing such stories of lives cut short when children are deprived of parents at a young age from smoking-related illnesses.  We know that nicotine is one of the most addictive substances and we know it is harmful.  We know that the best way to prevent the harm is to convince people not to take up smoking, and encourage and support those who are smokers to give up.  I have supported, and will continue to support, workable and sensible measures - measures that send strong, clear messages to the community encouraging people not to smoke and never to start.


We are also well aware of the lobbying undertaken by the tobacco companies.  They have a very slick program of lobbying and make many interesting claims.  They are quite right when they state they are selling a legal product.  That is true, but when they claim they do not market it to children, I believe they are disingenuous.  Tobacco companies have very well paid and clever marketing people adept at producing marketing programs that will appeal to children.  Subtle though they may be, it is clear that children and young people are their target.


When I was considering this bill, I was reminded of the great YouTube clip starring John Clarke.  It was made in 2011 when the plain packaging legislation was being introduced.  It is a television commercial by the Cancer Council Victoria and John Clarke plays a big tobacco company executive, or 'head honcho', as the ad describes him.  The ad shows the head honcho appearing to sincerely acknowledge the harm cigarette smoking does to health, and claiming to care about the health of all Australians.  It suggests that the companies acknowledge the terrible harm tobacco causes to health and issue a full product recall until they could be sure it is entirely safe.  He says this is because the one thing big tobacco companies care about is your health.  He then leans back in his chair and roars with laughter in true John Clarke style.  I can only recommend the clip to members.  I posted it on Facebook during the weekend as I was preparing my contribution on this.  It speaks volumes and it really is hilarious.  I showed it to a group of high school students a few years ago when I was talking to them about the risk of smoking.


Despite all we know about smoking cigarettes, big cigarette companies still avoid those serious questions and fall back on the claim that while it is a legal product they will keep selling it.  The principle of this bill is to put in place a measure to stop people taking up this very harmful habit.  There is no safe level of tobacco smoking, unlike other substances that can, and do, cause us harm.  Research clearly shows it is never safe to smoke, it always does harm - harm that may take many years to manifest.  When it does, it is often too late to prevent premature death and even if death can be delayed, the legacy of smoking - the symptoms of this harm - often mean that life lived is very difficult and limiting.  This has been well demonstrated in advertising campaigns, some of them particularly poignant in more recent years, and more importantly, it has unfortunately been played out in many families' lives.


I have considered if there are other ways that could persuade young Tasmanians not to take up smoking.  I am not convinced this bill will be effective as it does not make it an offence to smoke for a person who is born in or after the year 2000.  It is an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone born after the start of the year 2000.  This sends a mixed message that could undermine the bill's intent.  There are many ways people born in or after the year 2000 will be able to access and thus smoke tobacco products.  Despite this, I support the principle of the bill, and if supported, hope it will reduce the uptake of smoking over time.


I believe we need to continue to focus on education, especially if we are to achieve long‑term improvement.  We need to take action and initiate measures that will have the effect of convincing young people not to take up smoking because they know it is harmful.  Until we get to this position, punitive measures will only have a limited impact.


It is not dissimilar to those who drink and drive.  Until a person chooses not to drink after driving because they know it will have a negative impact on their driving and put them and others at risk of injury or death - rather than because they might get caught by the police and lose their licence - we will not see a lasting change in behaviours and informed decision‑making about these risks.  The same applies to smoking.  Until people make an informed choice not to do it, punitive measures will not work.


I, and other members of this parliament, cannot argue against the principle of this bill.  There are many issues with the implementation and operation of the bill, but they should be dealt with in the Committee stage, if it gets that far.  The Legislative Council has addressed many problems with bills that arrive in this place, and at times saved the government of the day from some very poor decisions.  That is our job; that is what we do.


As we all know, the second reading is about support or otherwise for the principle of the bill.  The detail comes later.  I support the principle of the bill and I will be supporting the second reading.


[4.01 p.m.]

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