Tobacco Amendment (Shopper Loyalty Schemes) Bill 2012

Written on the 13 December 2012

I rise to speak on the debate on the Tobacco Amendment (Shopper Loyalty Schemes) Bill 2012. I thank Ms Hartland for her support of the bill. I note that in the other place the opposition did not oppose the bill. As Ms Hartland just highlighted, this bill is about loyalty programs and the effects of smoking. As she said, whatever we can do in this area should be done. The Baillieu government is fully committed to ongoing health reform in this state, and it will continue to roll out preventive programs in a number of areas that will better inform Victorians of healthy initiatives and lifestyle choices. I note that the Victorian Health Priorities Framework 2012-22 clearly outlines those priorities and is focused on a preventive strategy across government and across sectors.

 


In the last sitting week we had another bill that related to tobacco. We debated and passed the Tobacco Amendment (Smoking at Patrolled Beaches) Bill 2012. Today the Premier and the Minister for Health announced a ban on solariums.

 


That is not related to tobacco, obviously, but it is another strong message to Victorians that where we can do anything to assist with initiatives to prevent cancer, this government is clearly committed to doing so. I congratulate the minister on launching the skin cancer prevention framework, which is the first framework of its kind in Victoria. It will go a long way toward further preventing the ongoing tragic effects of cancer.

 


To get back to what this bill is about, it is a fairly straightforward and simple bill. It is another measure with which the government is demonstrating its commitment to further reduce the incidence of smoking, and it sends a message to younger Victorians. I think that is very important.

 


The purpose of the bill is to amend the Tobacco Act 1987 to limit further the operation of shopper loyalty schemes in relation to the sale of tobacco products. As was highlighted by Ms Hartland, there are various loyalty schemes or frequent flyer reward points that people get when they purchase goods. A lot of retail is geared towards marketing campaigns, and clearly loyalty programs are used by many retailers. The bill will take away the inducement of rewards to coerce or entice shoppers into buying tobacco-related products.

 

 

The amendment to section 7 of the Tobacco Act will bring Victoria into line with other states that have already gone down this path, including New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory. For major retailers that operate nationally, it will provide a more consistent basis in relation to any reward loyalty schemes that might be in place for the consumer.

 


As we have said, there is bipartisan support for whatever we can do to reduce the incidence of smoking, and we are especially interested in targeting younger people or the more vulnerable in lower socioeconomic brackets.
 

 

Clearly some reward programs are targeted at those two specific groups. This amendment will go a long way towards protecting those people in relation to those programs. The state has come a long way in introducing many initiatives around smoking. As we know, something in the vicinity of 4000 deaths a year are attributed to smoking. The health effects cost billions of dollars per year -- up to $5 billion per year or thereabouts. Smoking has an enormous economic cost, let alone the health cost and the costs to individuals that are affected and their families.
 

 

It seems incredible that not so long ago we would have considered smoking in the workplace acceptable. I remember that smoking was once allowed in hospitals and wards; it seems incredible that that was not so long ago. I am very pleased that all sides of the house are supporting this initiative. It is a very good initiative that will further protect Victorians against the harmful effects of smoking.

 


As it stands, there is also a defence provision for some benefits that are applied by the larger chains in relation to credit card transactions, and some institutions have not been able to easily identify those benefits. This bill will review that defence, which is particularly relevant to reward schemes that are attributed to credit card transactions.

 


In closing, I do not need to say too much more about this bill. As I said, the minister should be commended for bringing it forward. It sends a strong message to Victorians that we are further increasing our preventive health programs, and I note that there has been consultation with and support from retail chains. We thank those retail chains as well as those opposite for supporting this bill.


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