Tobacco Amendment (Smoking At Patrolled Beaches) Bill 2012

Written on the 27 November 2012

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am pleased to rise to speak on the debate on the Tobacco Amendment (Smoking at Patrolled Beaches) Bill 2012. As we come into the summer period, this is a very timely bill. Should this bill be passed today, its enforcement on 1 December this year will take into consideration the very busy summer period when many Victorians will holiday on our beaches. We have many significant and wonderful beaches along our coastline, baysides and rivers. This bill encapsulates another public health message to people spending time on beaches; this message is about the effects of smoking. I commend the minister and the government for bringing it forward.


This is just another legislative measure in the government's commitment to reduce smoking and its uptake by Victorians. It again sends the message that smoking poses a significant risk to personal health and also highlights the consequent ongoing health costs that smoking-related diseases cause.


The purpose of the bill is to prohibit smoking between the flags at patrolled beaches and within a 50-metre radius of each of those flags. It is intended that this smoking ban will further limit the exposure of children and families to second-hand smoke, minimise the littering of cigarette butts and improve public amenity at patrolled beaches in Victoria. There are multifaceted benefits, including denormalising smoking and sending that message out to future generations of children.


The edges of some rivers do not have huge beaches, but along our surf coasts and baysides there are very extensive beaches where a lot of patrolling is undertaken.


That area encapsulates where many children participate in activities on our waterways, and their presence reinforces the appropriateness of this measure to ban smoking.


Statewide smoking bans have been introduced in some other states, as has been highlighted, which goes to the point that these measures are essentially self-enforcing. Mrs Peulich made that point by way of interjection, and I have to agree. It sends the public a message, and the measure is relatively self-enforcing over time. We are doing a lot to get the message out that the ban will be enforced through local government inspectors, who already patrol beaches in relation to a number of issues, including certain activities undertaken on beaches and dogs being on leashes. This is just another measure they will be able to enforce.


Smokers who ignore the ban will face on-the-spot fines of $141.


As the minister highlighted in his second-reading speech, if a fine is ignored, the penalty will increase to $700, which is not an insignificant amount of money, if the matter goes to court. Hopefully this will send the message that smoking is unacceptable in popular waterway spots.


We all know smoking has significant health effects. Around 4000 deaths are caused by smoking-related illness each year in this state. That is a significant number. It has a high economic cost in terms of health bills, and it also has high personal costs. It is well known that the chemicals in cigarettes, to say the least, will do you a great deal of harm. There are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, 60 of which are known to cause cancer. That is a significant public health risk. As has been highlighted by Mr Jennings, the Australian Medical Association, Quit Victoria and Cancer Council Victoria have applauded the government for sending this message. As the government and all parties recognise, we need to do more to get that message out about smoking.


Another aspect of this bill is that it reinforces the message to children. On many beaches most children, with their families, will be swimming between or just outside the flags. As Mr Jennings said, people may picnic or congregate outside the flags, but as the majority of Victorians attend the beaches through our high summer months, the ban will be enforced on patrolled beaches. The message we will be sending, particularly to children, is that banning cigarette smoking in these areas will limit exposure to second-hand smoke and that smoking is unhealthy. We are doing a great deal about getting that message out to children. There is an element of self-enforcement, but there will be an ongoing campaign in relation to sending that message, and there will be signs to indicate that smoking is banned between the flags.


I note some councils in my electorate of Southern Metropolitan Region have already introduced this measure. I am fortunate that a number of areas in my electorate have beautiful bayside beaches.


Many constituents of mine in Southern Metropolitan Region attend those bayside beaches during and outside the summer months. I note that the City of Port Phillip has undertaken to extend a smoking ban in its area, and I commend it for doing that and note there has been significant environmental impact in terms of the reduction of butts on the beaches that it patrols. In an article from an edition of the Age earlier this year one of the councillors, Frank O'Connor, was reported as saying:


Data from last summer shows cigarette butt litter on Port Melbourne Beach is down 28 per cent, St Kilda Beach is down 24 per cent and Elwood Beach is down 15 per cent ...
The more this message gets out, the further reduction there will be in the environmental impact of butts littering our beaches.


It needs to be a very strong message, because those butts are not biodegradable -- they do not break down -- and they cause significant littering and environmental problems on our beaches. We all like to go to the beach -- over the summer months many Victorians flock to our beaches -- and there is nothing worse than putting your towel down to lie on the beach and seeing a few cigarette butts right there.


Mr Jennings made reference to a limited 50-metre radius, but as I said at the outset this legislation applies to riverside beaches as well as bayside and surf beaches. On riverside beaches the measure will be limited -- we have the Murray River, of course. Those beaches do not have the widespread sand or exposure that surf coast or bayside beaches have, and they might not extend to the 50-metre limit. That 50-metre radius will, however, certainly encapsulate a lot of patrolled beaches.


I would also like to say that I am pleased the bill has been recognised and supported by various other states. This bill sends a good message to all Victorians. It provides uniformity across Victoria's beaches. I note that there are 16 beaches throughout the state that have smoking bans thanks to council by-laws. This bill will reinforce those initiatives that have been undertaken. As I said, the City of Port Phillip in my area of Southern Metropolitan Region has already seen the benefits of what it has done.


In conclusion, the bill will ensure that our beaches are kept clean, discourage everyone from smoking, particularly children, to whom we are sending this public health message, and reduce the presence of second-hand smoke in the areas that are being patrolled. I commend the bill to the house.

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