Tobacco Amendment Bill 2013

Written on the 1 November 2013

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am pleased to speak on the Tobacco Amendment Bill 2013.

It is an important bill that continues initiatives undertaken by this government. I congratulate Ms Darveniza on supporting this initiative. Over many years there has been bipartisan support for decreasing the numbers of smokers in Victoria. I thank her and the opposition for their support for this bill.

It is fair to say that Victoria has led the way in many instances in relation to tobacco control, and that has been evident through the many reforms that have taken place in this state. The government is committed to further protecting the Victorian public, but particularly Victoria's children, and this bill is directly related to that. As we know, tobacco smoking causes many ill effects, including respiratory disease, vascular disease and cardiac disease.

Smoking is a direct contributor to all those chronic diseases, resulting in enormous and significant cost to not only the individual but also the Victorian health system. Each year around 4000 lives are lost because of smoking. The direct health cost is in the vicinity of $2.4 billion. These are significant figures not only in dollar terms but also in lives lost.

Therefore we should do everything we can to further reduce the rates of smoking. I am pleased to note that the rate of smoking is decreasing. In 2012 the rate of smoking was around 13.3 per cent. That represents a decrease from 2011, when it was 14.4 per cent, and 2010, when it was 15.35 per cent. In 1998 the rate of smoking was around 21.2 per cent, so we can see there has been a steady decline in the rate of smoking. That is a very good sign for our community, but we need to be doing more. This bill goes further toward denormalising the effects of smoking on children and also further improving the health outcomes for all Victorians.

The bill relates directly to a number of areas. It prohibits smoking in certain public outdoor areas; restricts further the promotion and display of tobacco products; makes it an offence to threaten, assault or intimidate an inspector who is exercising a power under part 3A of the Tobacco Act 1987; and makes a number of other miscellaneous amendments.

The whole point of the bill is really targeted at those young Victorians who are very impressionable, and this bill goes a long way to addressing the concerns of many people.

We know that in recent surveys the Victorian public has further supported non-smoking around children, and I think in a survey that was undertaken by Cancer Council Australia in recent years 83 per cent stated that smoking should not be allowed at outdoor areas where children are present. This bill directly addresses the concerns of those 83 per cent in that survey.

The outdoor smoking bans look at banning smoking around children's playground equipment within a 10-metre radius, areas within a 10-metre radius of the perimeters of public swimming pools, sporting venues during under-age sporting events also within a 10 metre radius, and outdoor skate parks.

It is very significant that Victoria is the first jurisdiction to ban smoking in outdoor skate parks. Skate parks are a facility where young people, in particular teenagers and children of an impressionable age, undertake sporting activity.

I was pleased recently to be able to open the St Kilda skate park in the marina reserve, which was formerly an unused space on the foreshore of St Kilda. We now have a tremendous facility there that is attracting a wide range of young people who are using that facility on a regular basis. It has been widely endorsed by many people, including the 2009 World Cup Skateboarding Vert Champion, Renton Millar, who was there at the opening, along with Cr Serge Thomann, who has been an advocate for the skate park, and a number of other councillors.

It is pleasing to see that facility being used, and it has benefited the amenity around the St Kilda foreshore. It is becoming a beacon to attract young people to be more active, and in the words of the Minister for Sport and Recreation, more active more often. Anything we can do to promote sporting activities for young children should be applauded. Again, I think it is a great sign that Victoria has led the way in relation to banning smoking around skate parks. As I said, we are the first jurisdiction to do so.

I know that a number of councils have undertaken their own banning of smoking in outdoor areas. As we know, this bill will provide consistency across Victoria and give certainty, so I take up Ms Darveniza's point when she said it was piecemeal and not coordinated. I would argue that that is directly what the bill is doing: it is a coordinated approach to implement significant reforms around children's playgrounds and equipment and, as I have just mentioned, facilities such as the skate park I referred to.

When the bill was proposed significant consultation was undertaken across the sector and a number of submissions were received. In fact 7824 submissions were received when looking at this issue, of which 599 submissions came from community survey responses, 99 on behalf of organisations and 65 on behalf of sporting clubs and various others.

I think that indicates just how broadly this issue reached the community, and I am very pleased to know that there was such broad consultation and that community members, various community groups and community sectors had input in relation to this very important bill.

The second part of the bill relates to the restriction and promotion of advertising tobacco. As we know, display and promotion is a significant way to reach any market, and when marketing tobacco of course children are very impressionable, and often they can be very taken by what is seen to be a cool activity, if you like.

Certainly in years gone by, in the 1960s and 1970s, it was very common for people in high-profile positions to smoke. Rock stars, movie stars, you name it -- they all smoked, and that was influential and made a strong impression on a number of young people.

Anything we can do to restrict the influence on young people of smoking advertising and the like is a good thing.

The specialist tobacconists in the state, of which there are around 145, have historically been able to apply for an exemption to tobacco product display bans. The government is dealing with this issue to ensure that this does not occur in the future. The exemptions will remain for any existing specialist tobacconists, but if the business is transferred or if a new tobacconist is established, then the exemption will not apply.

This is an important measure undertaken by the government. There have been significant reforms in relation to this issue. The minister has been very active in this area. He has introduced a ban on smoking on patrolled beaches. Life Saving Victoria is very pleased with that ban, which is having a very good uptake. The community is very supportive of that initiative. There is much to be done in this area, but those reforms have been positively received.
I again congratulate the minister on his recent announcement to extend the ban on smoking on train and tram platforms. In a recent media release the minister said the extended bans would aid the health and wellbeing of other public transport users, particularly schoolchildren. We are targeting young Victorians of school age to denormalise this activity. I applaud the minister for this initiative.

The fines for smoking in covered areas on platforms already apply and can be issued by authorised officers, which includes the protective services officers who have been rolled out across a number of metropolitan railway stations and have been favourably received by both the commuters and the businesses in surrounding station precincts.

In conclusion I commend the minister for his proactive stance in making further reforms, targeting those who are most easily influenced, being children of school age, and bringing this bill before the Parliament. It is another step that will provide consistency across the state. I wish the bill a speedy passage.

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