Tobacco Amendment (Smoking In Outdoor Areas) Bill (12.06.2013)

Written on the 14 June 2013

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am pleased to rise to speak on Ms Hartland's Tobacco Amendment (Smoking In Outdoor Areas) Bill 2012. I know she has spoken a number of times in relation to smoking and its effects in previous debates in this place, and I understand that she is very passionate about the health and wellbeing of Victorians; I acknowledge that.


I would like to say at the outset that in relation to Ms Hartland's motion there are a number of issues that the government would like to address, and I also point out that this government, like previous governments, has been very supportive of measures that will improve health outcomes for all Victorians, and one of those is to reduce the incidence of smoking within our population and to decrease the uptake of smoking by younger Victorians. That is something that opposition members would also be very supportive of, and I know they have been in previous times, so I make that acknowledgement.


The government has undertaken a number of legislative reforms in relation to the cessation of smoking and the promotion of health and wellbeing, and I have spoken on those matters in previous times as somebody who has seen firsthand the effects of smoking and the chronic diseases it causes, whether they be respiratory disease, the effects of vascular disease that then move on to cardiac disease or eye problems, or the way it contributes to very poor outcomes for people with diabetes. These are all an enormous cost to the individual but also a significant cost to the Victorian health system. In Victoria alone smoking takes approximately 3800 lives each year and has a financial cost of around $6.8 billion annually. We are speaking of significant numbers in both loss of life as well as health costs.


Even though there has been significant progress in this area, smoking is a major contributor to chronic disease, but it is the leading avoidable cause of cancer and the associated effects of that dreadful disease. As I have also acknowledged, there has been bipartisan support on this issue since the introduction of the Tobacco Act 1987. Over the time since that act came into being legislative reforms have been undertaken by previous governments.


These reforms have included advertising and sponsorship bans, as well as smoking bans in a range of settings. There have also been attempts to denormalise smoking. When most of us were growing up it was quite the normal thing to see people smoking. In fact some of the advertisements we saw on television when we were growing up were particularly iconic -- --


Hon. P. R. Hall interjected.


Ms CROZIER -- They were cool, as Mr Hall suggests. There were a number of them, and in fact my uncle was the Marlboro Man, so I was fully aware of it. We thought he was really cool. Nevertheless, growing up in the 1970s and 1980s smoking was, for many people, quite a normal part of their daily life. But thankfully time has moved on, and the ban on advertising and the denormalisation of smoking has helped people to quit and has helped protect Victorians from the devastating health effects of smoking.


It is important to note that legislation and regulation, whilst important, form just one part of the integrated public health response to tobacco control. Other initiatives have been taken, such as including taxation on pricing, packaging restrictions and we have seen the debate in recent times and the subsequent legislation at a national level for plain packaging of cigarettes. This government is certainly proud of its record in relation to the continued strong history in this state of taking action to promote the health of Victorians and reduce smoking-related harm. The last annual survey of smoking prevalence in Victoria found that smoking rates are at their lowest ever, at 14.4 per cent, down from 15.35 per cent in 2010 and 21.2 per cent in 1998. This continuing decline in uptake and in smoking rates is a very positive sign for all Victorians, but still there is more to be done. This government has taken a number of legislative steps, and I have spoken about those in the past.


I remind the chamber of them.

The government has banned smoking on all patrolled beaches. That ban was effective from 1 December 2012. It has excluded tobacco products from shopper loyalty and rewards programs, effective from 1 March this year. In February the government announced its intention to introduce bans on smoking at children's playgrounds, skate parks, public swimming pools and sea baths, and children's sporting events.


In an ongoing initiative, the government provides new and updated graphic health warning signs to be used next to price boards at retail outlets. These new signs align with the commonwealth's graphic health warning images used on tobacco product plain packaging and help reinforce the message that smoking has significant harmful health consequences.


Each year the Victorian government invests more than $9 million in tobacco control initiatives, including the smoking cessation programs, antismoking advertising campaigns and education and enforcement activities, with a particular emphasis, as I said, on the sale of tobacco to young people. The government is particularly concerned to target young people to highlight to young Victorians the harmful effects of smoking and to try to highlight that it is not cool to smoke. Recently the government also provided an additional $1 million to Quit Victoria to allow the airing of the moving new campaign Last Dance.


A number of other projects have been established which focus on delivery of smoking interventions by health professionals. They include an oral health initiative and a pilot program to deliver brief smoking interventions in the hospital context. It is worth noting that we have come a long way.


Back in the 1980s, when I was working in the hospital and health sector generally, and even in the early 1990s it was commonplace to have smoking rooms in hospitals. Even while we were receiving our reports those who smoked would light up and smoke quite freely, and even patients on the wards had a designated smoking area. It is hard to believe that it was not so many years ago that that activity was allowed.


The government is concerned about a number of issues relating to Ms Hartland's amending bill. I refer to the status of the consultation process that has been gone through. It is unknown whether consultation on the proposed outdoor drinking and dining smoking bans has been undertaken with, for instance, the Australian Hotels Association and Restaurant and Catering Victoria.


In contrast, the public consultation undertaken by the government for the proposed legislation that I spoke about earlier -- that is, in relation to the playgrounds, skate parks, public swimming pools and sea baths, and children's sporting events -  has concluded recently. A separate consultation was also undertaken with local councils. That consultation process allowed for the essential gathering from the stakeholders of information and data on the technical issues to inform the drafting of the legislation that the government intends to bring forward.


The Department of Health also received a number of public submissions.


In total there were 7824 responses, comprising 599 responses to the online survey and 7225 submissions that were received by email to the email address. Many of those submissions came from the Keep Fresh Air Fresh campaign, which calls for the introduction of a ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas. Understandably people involved in that campaign had significant interest and therefore significant input into this area.


There were 599 responses to the community survey, of which 99, or 16.5 per cent, were submitted on behalf of a number of organisations. They were from 65 sporting organisations and clubs, 7 public health organisations, 15 local government bodies and 3 parent or family organisations. The online survey that was conducted of councils was more detailed. Various elements had to be understood. The survey required extensive data and provided for the councils to make comments. Of the 79 councils, 73 responded in full and 3 made partial responses.


It is my understanding that there was a completion rate of about 92 per cent. The preliminary analysis of feedback on that consultation process showed that the proposed bans were supported in principle by most respondents, including local government and the public health, sporting and recreation, and parent organisations, as well as those individuals who put in submissions. So the government has undertaken extensive consultation.


Another area of the government's concerns about Ms Hartland's amending bill is that it is unknown whether there has been any consultation with the Department of Transport on smoking bans at transport locations. Ms Hartland's bill effectively moves provisions regarding smoking at public transport stops from the Transport (Conduct) Regulations 2005 to the Tobacco Act 1987. Unintentionally, I think, but nevertheless, this creates complexity in enforcement. It will create confusion, as it will be unclear whose role it is to enforce the provisions.


Another bureaucracy will be needed to enforce the new law, so there will be duplication and additional costs to the Victorian taxpayer. That area needs to be looked at.


In Victoria the Transport (Conduct) Regulations 2005 prohibit smoking at rolling stock, tram and bus stop shelters and under covered areas at train platforms. The regulations require occupiers and owners of public transport property, so far as reasonably practical, to display acceptable no smoking signs at rolling stock, tram and bus stop shelters and under covered areas of train platforms. Authorised officers, or ticket inspectors, are employed by the public transport system. They are responsible for enforcing the smoking bans, and any complaints are referred to Public Transport Victoria. So we already have in place an enforcement process that is working well. As I said, the proposed amendment would confuse and create complexity, and there would be a duplication of process or an additional cost to the taxpayer.


As I said, Ms Hartland's bill removes any provisions regarding smoking at public transport stops from the Transport (Conduct) Regulations 2005 to the Tobacco Act 1987, and the enforcement of the law would be confused.


Another area of the bill that is of concern to the government is that it is also unknown whether local councils have been consulted, although there are enforcement implications for local councils. As I said, there has been significant consultation on the process. Under the Tobacco Act, smoking is prohibited in Victoria in outdoor drinking and dining areas where there is a roof in place and there are walls that cover more than 75 per cent of the total notional wall area.


Ms Hartland's bill will broaden the scope of the current ban to include smoking in outdoor drinking and dining areas.


There are a number of concerns that will also be highlighted in this particular area. The bill allows for a licensed premises to provide a designated outdoor smoking area that meets the following criteria: it must not exceed 50 per cent of the outdoor area, it must not be placed immediately next to an entrance to an enclosed area, it must have a buffer on its perimeter, it must have a single entrance no wider than 1 metre, it must have no roof or partial proof, it must exclude persons under 18, no food or drink must be served, no food must be brought in, no entertainment must be provided and it must display a notice that provides prescribed information. Occupiers of licensed premises must prepare a smoking management plan.


There are significant issues in relation to all those aspects. It is unknown whether consultation has occurred in the drafting of this bill or whether organisations that will be greatly affected, such as the Australian Hotels Association and others, see those as major impediments to their ongoing business.


In relation to designated outdoor smoking areas I would also like to speak to the issue of smoke drift, which is not specifically addressed by Ms Hartland's private members bill. Smoke drift is a major concern in other jurisdictions, and it needs to be considered. As I said, there are a number of implications and areas that the government is concerned have not been addressed in relation to Ms Hartland's bill. The government is looking at potentially introducing smoking bans at children's playgrounds, skate parks, public swimming pools and sea baths and children's sporting events.


There is more reform to be done in this area, and this government is committed to improving the health of Victorians by decreasing the rates of smoking in established smokers and decreasing the uptake of smoking by younger Victorians.


On behalf of the government I indicate that it will not be supporting Ms Hartland's Tobacco Amendment (Smoking in Outdoor Areas) Bill 2012.

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