TOBACCO AMENDMENT BILL 2014

Written on the 4 September 2014

Second reading
Debate resumed from 21 August; motion of Hon. G. K. RICH-PHILLIPS (Assistant Treasurer).

 

Ms LEWIS (Northern Victoria) -- The opposition will not be opposing this bill. The bill before us today, the Tobacco Amendment Bill 2014, is a continuation of tobacco reform in Victoria, reform which has its origins in the 1980s. When the Cain government introduced the Tobacco Act 1987 it was considered a revolutionary action. It established Victoria as a world leader in the reduction of the use of tobacco.

The Tobacco Act 1987 set the parameters for commencing the long task of reducing tobacco use, and I am pleased to see that it continues to be progressively reformed in line with community expectations and continues to protect people from the harmful effects of smoking.

The harm associated with tobacco is well documented and recognised by the community. We know that every cigarette destroys lung tissue, and that 80 per cent of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking. We know that the impact of tobacco use stretches far and wide across our community. Tobacco is responsible for almost 4000 deaths in Victoria each year and costs the Victorian community over $5 billion annually in healthcare and social costs. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in Victoria, causing a wide range of cancers, heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

I would like to speak about the history of attempts to limit smoking.

When I spoke on the Freedom of Information and Victorian Inspectorate Acts Amendment Bill 2014 last sitting week Mr David O'Brien expressed concerned about me referring to 'ancient history'. It is important that we look at our history and learn from the past.

Today I would like to take us a bit further back into history. While we consider the Tobacco Act 1987 the starting point for reforms in Victoria, the negative effects of tobacco have been known and commented on since shortly after its introduction to Europe in around 1560. In 1604 King James I of England wrote a treatise called A Counter-blaste to Tobacco. In this document he complained about passive smoking, warned of the danger to the lungs and called tobacco 'hateful to the nose'. He subsequently authorised an excise tax and tariff on imported tobacco -- probably the first action by a government to reduce the use of tobacco. Coincidentally, work on the King James version of the bible also commenced in 1604, and it continued until 1611. Just imagine how different the world would be today if similar resources had been put into following up A Counter-Blaste to Tobacco.

When the Tobacco Bill 1987 was introduced almost 40 per cent of the community smoked. Since then that figure has more than halved, but despite the overall reduction in the consumption of tobacco, smoking rates remain high in areas of disadvantage. The statistics are clear. They show that the range of tobacco reforms made over the years have significantly contributed to a reduction in the number of smokers in Victoria. Current adult smoking rates in Australia are 17.5 per cent of the population, but in Victoria they are 13.3 per cent.

Unfortunately the antismoking message is not getting through as strongly to people in rural and regional Victoria. This places them at much greater risk of cardiovascular and other circulatory diseases. For example, 27.1 per cent of people in the Moira shire in north-eastern Victoria smoke; in Greater Shepparton, 25.4 per cent; and in the shire of Mansfield the smoking rate is 24 per cent.

Past legislation has played a significant role in reducing tobacco use in Victoria. Reforms addressing youth smoking, such as those that increased the penalties for selling cigarettes to minors, were introduced in November 2000. Smoke-free dining laws were introduced in July 2001. Smoke-free shopping centre laws were introduced in November 2001. Further restrictions on tobacco advertising and displays within tobacco retail outlets were introduced in July 2001. Smoking restrictions in licensed premises, gaming and bingo venues, and the casino were introduced and adopted in September 2002.

Smoking bans in enclosed workplaces, at under-age music and dance events, and in covered areas of train station platforms, tram shelters and bus shelters were introduced in March 2006. Bans on buzz marketing and non-branded tobacco advertising were introduced in March 2006. A further strengthening of laws to enforce the ban on cigarette sales to young people occurred in March 2006. Smoking bans in enclosed licensed premises were introduced in July 2007.

On 1 January 2010 a ban on smoking in motor vehicles carrying children under the age of 18 was introduced. Bans on the sale of tobacco from temporary outlets were introduced on 1 January 2010. A power for the Minister for Health to ban tobacco products and packaging that appeal to young people, non-tobacco products that resemble tobacco products and any other product the nature or advertising of which might encourage people to smoke was introduced on 1 January 2010. A ban on the display of tobacco products in retail outlets, with the provision of an exemption for specialist tobacconists and airport duty-free shops, was introduced on 1 January 2011.

Since the change of government in 2010 the Baillieu and Napthine governments have introduced smoke-free patrolled beaches, banned tobacco from shopper loyalty schemes and banned smoking on public transport platforms, in outdoor areas of public swimming pool complexes, outdoor skate parks, outdoor sporting venues during under-age sporting events and in the vicinity of outdoor children's playgrounds. However, on the downside, the coalition government has won the Australian Medical Association's Dirty Ashtray Award three times as the state that has taken the least action on tobacco.

Despite the progress of reform, the impact of tobacco is still concerning. There is strong evidence that reductions in the prevalence of adult smoking in the Victorian population are achieved by a combination of legislative reform, education programs, support through primary health services and antismoking social marketing campaigns. Helping to protect Victorians from the harmful effects of tobacco use should be a high priority for all state governments.

The purpose of the bill before us today is to further amend the Tobacco Act 1987 to prohibit smoking in specified outdoor areas, to prohibit smoking in the vicinity of pedestrian access points to certain places, to increase the penalty at the foot of section 11A of the principal act, and to amend the powers of inspectors in relation to monitoring compliance with, and investigating possible contravention of, certain provisions prohibiting smoking in outdoor areas.

The aim of these amendments is to further denormalise smoking in our community, further limit exposure to second-hand smoke, reduce littering and improve public amenity. Smoking will now be banned at preschool and child-care services premises while those areas are being used for educational or child-care activities. All school premises will now be required to be smoke free at all times. Currently there is a ban on smoking in government schools through a ministerial order; however, the ban will now be legislated and apply not just to government schools but across all schools.

This bill bans smoking within 4 metres of a pedestrian entrance to a range of public facilities, including the Parliament, courts, hospitals and health services. This means people seeking health treatment will no longer have to pass through crowds of people smoking while clustered around the entrances to hospitals and other public health providers.

The smoking ban will also apply within 4 metres of pedestrian entrances to children's indoor play centres, preschools, child-care services and schools. It is this provision that I have significant concerns about. Pedestrian entrances to many of these facilities are generally gates in wire fences. Smoke, as we all know, travels through wire fences, and children play or gather near the boundary fences at many of these facilities. While moving smokers 4 metres from the pedestrian access or gateway looks good on paper, realistically it is an ineffective measure. It will not protect children from second-hand smoke, it will not remove smokers from the view of children in the school ground, and it will not denormalise smoking or improve amenity.

To achieve these aims the bill ought to have specified a smoking ban within 4 metres of a boundary fence between a childcare or educational premises and public land, particularly roads or footpaths.

A move such as this would have fulfilled the objectives of the bill as smokers would in most cases have had to stand on the opposite side of a road, well away from children and frequently out of their sight. The same exemptions could have applied to this arrangement as those that apply to the measures proposed in the bill -- that is, someone who is in an outdoor drinking or dining area or walking or driving past will not be committing an offence. 'No smoking' signs will be required to identify the new areas where smoking is banned.

This bill empowers inspectors to enter premises, as specified in the bill, for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing the new sections of the amended act. However, inspectors must be accompanied by the occupier of the premises or a person acting on their behalf.

The maximum penalty for the new offences set out in the bill will be 5 penalty units, which is currently $730.

However, the most likely enforcement will be through on-the-spot fines of 1 penalty unit, which is currently $147. The bill quadruples the penalties for retailers and wholesalers possessing illegal tobacco, smuggled goods or goods for which an excise has not been paid. Fines will increase from 60 penalty points to 240 penalty points, and from 300 penalty points to 1200 penalty points.

The provisions of this bill will go a long way to further the denormalisation of smoking and the reduction in the numbers of young people taking up the habit. I look forward to future steps that continue the process of reforming the Tobacco Act 1987. These could include banning smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas. Political parties could demonstrate leadership by practising what they promote -- for example, the Liberal Party and The Nationals could follow the lead of the Labor Party and refuse to accept donations from tobacco companies.

Continued assistance and resourcing of health promotion, preventive healthcare programs and social media campaigns directed towards young people must be supported by all political parties. Together we can help people overcome their addiction to tobacco and save thousands of Victorian lives.

 

 

Ms HARTLAND (Western Metropolitan) -- My contribution to the debate on the Tobacco Amendment Bill 2014 will be quite brief. The Greens will support the bill because we have been very strong on the issue of tobacco control. The bill amends the Tobacco Act 1987 to ban smoking within the grounds of and at or near entrances to all Victorian childcare centres, kindergartens or preschools, primary and secondary schools, and at and near entrances to children's indoor play centres and Victorian public premises, which are all Victorian public hospitals, registered community health centres and certain Victorian government buildings.

The bill quadruples the penalty for possession of illicit tobacco by retailers and wholesalers to discourage trade in illicit tobacco and amends the powers of entry for inspectors to enhance enforcement of outdoor smoking bans.

These are all welcome reforms. All too often I have had to walk through the entrances of hospitals where people are smoking, as I am sure have other people in this chamber. Today as I got off the train at Parliament station, I noticed quite a few people smoking just outside the station zone. I find it very disconcerting to have to walk through clouds of smoke as I enter buildings. We want to continue the campaign about denormalising smoking so that children do not get the idea that somehow smoking is glamorous or something you would want to do. As we reduce the number of people who smoke, we will reduce the number of people whose health is profoundly affected by cigarettes.

As I have always said when we debate these bills, I find it a shame that the government is still not prepared to do anything about the issue of smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas. There are only six more sitting days in this parliamentary session. Clearly the government is not going to bother to bring in this most essential piece of legislation, to ban smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas.

Every time I have raised this issue the government has never given what I consider to be a satisfactory answer as to why it has not moved on that piece of legislation. This is the fifth or sixth piece of legislation we have dealt with on the issue of smoking, yet it has never bothered to address the pivotal issue -- that is, to ban smoking in outdoor dining and drinking areas. With those few words, the Greens will support this bill.

 

 

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am pleased to rise this morning to contribute to the debate on the Tobacco Amendment Bill 2014. I thank members of the opposition for their support of this bill.

Mr Lenders -- Happy to oblige.

Ms CROZIER -- I thank Mr Lenders. This is another important step forward in relation to smoking.

I note Ms Hartland's comments about banning smoking altogether. However, incremental steps need to be taken in order to bring the community with us in relation to banning smoking. This government has undertaken an enormous amount of reform in this regard, and I will highlight some of that work in a moment. Nevertheless, I am pleased that Ms Hartland and Ms Lewis are supporting this government's measures. Previous governments have put in place a number of smoking bans, and this bill provides another example of this government's work in this regard.

The purpose of the bill is to amend the Tobacco Act 1987 to provide for further outdoor smoking bans to ensure that the entrance to children's play centres as well as our essential Victorian government services are smoke free. In Victoria there are around 2200 primary and secondary schools and approximately 4200 kindergartens and childcare centres.

This bill sends a very strong message to those children and their parents that second-hand smoke is harmful to one's health. It is also about denormalising smoking.

We know that smoking takes an enormous toll. Around 4000 Victorians lose their lives to smoking-related diseases each year. It costs $2.4 billion in direct health costs and lost productivity to the Victorian community, which has an enormous impact on families, the community and the economy.

The intent of this bill is to further limit exposure to second-hand smoke and to denormalise smoking. Clearly there will have to be some further education campaigns. I know the department will be putting out messaging and enabling that to occur. The bill also makes two minor and technical amendments to the principal act. It will quadruple the penalty for possession of illicit tobacco by retailers and wholesalers.

The maximum penalty will increase to $35 000 for individuals and $177 000 for businesses. This amendment will provide a strong deterrent for those considering trading in illicit tobacco.

The final point I would like to make in relation to what the bill will do is that it will amend powers of entry for inspectors to enhance the enforcement of outdoor smoking bans. As I said, this bill will directly affect a number of schools and childcare centres, but it also provides for a ban on smoking within 4 metres of entrances to essential Victorian government services or public premises. If you look at what that includes, you see the list is quite extensive -- the Parliament and the Victorian courts; public service bodies, including all Victorian departments; and administrative offices such as those for the Environment Protection Authority Victoria, the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate, the Office of Living Victoria and the Public Record Office Victoria, just to name a few.

It will also apply to special bodies within the meaning of the Public Administration Act 2004, including the Electoral Boundaries Commission, the department of the Parliament of Victoria, the office of the commissioner for law enforcement and data security, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and the Victorian Auditor-General's Office. Again this is just an example of a few of the bodies the bans will apply to.

As I said, the government has been fulfilling an extensive commitment to the Victorian public in relation to ensuring that it is aware of the harmful effects of smoking. It is heartening to see that the government, along with other agencies, has been successful in reducing the prevalence of smoking in Victoria by highlighting to the community just how damaging it is. In 2012 the number of regular smokers declined to 13.3 per cent from 14.4 per cent in 2011. In 1998, 21.2 per cent of adults were regular smokers. The latest figures represent a decline of around 37.3 per cent since 1998. That is over a period of 15 or 16 years or so. It is a significant drop, but obviously we need to do more. A smoking rate of 13.3 per cent is still too high.

We want to send a message to young Victorians and children about the harmful effects of smoking. In the 2014-15 budget the government committed over $8 million towards tobacco control initiatives, including smoking cessation programs, antismoking advertising campaigns and education and enforcement activities, as I have mentioned previously. That has a particular emphasis on the prevention of the sale of tobacco to young people.

Again, we want to send that message about the damaging effects of smoking to children and young people.

During its time in office the government has made a number of legislative amendments. Amendments to the Tobacco Act include ensuring that infringements issued for smoking in cars carrying children can be enforced by the infringements court, which has been effective from June 2011; banning smoking on patrolled beaches, effective from December 2012; excluding tobacco products from shopper loyalty and rewards programs, effective from March 2013; banning smoking around outdoor children's playground equipment, effective from April 2014; banning smoking in outdoor skate parks, also effective from April 2014; banning smoking in outdoor areas of public swimming pool complexes, also effective from that time; and at the same time banning smoking at sporting venues during organised under-age sporting events.

In April the government created an offence of intimidating, threatening or assaulting an inspector; repealed the packaging of tobacco provisions in light of the comprehensive commonwealth plain packaging laws; and allowed for the form of tobacco price noticeboards to be prescribed. In addition, there has been greater flexibility in the use and disclosure of tobacco retailer information for communication purposes relating to tobacco retailer obligations. The government has also removed the ability of retailers to apply for specialist tobacco certification and therefore the ability to obtain the tobacco product retail display ban exemption.

A number of legislative amendments have been made. In addition to that, there have been a number of regulatory amendments. The government amended the Transport (Conduct) Regulations 2005 to ban smoking on all raised tram platforms and all train platforms effective from March this year. I think the community at large appreciates those regulatory amendments.

In addition, the government has overseen the implementation of the ban on the display of tobacco products in Victorian retail outlets, which came into effect from January 2011. An exemption exists for certified specialised tobacconists and airport duty-free shops.

The government has also undertaken to send the message to young people through a number of important measures, including a ministerial order of November 2011 banning fruit-flavoured rolling papers, cigar wraps and cigarillos on the grounds that such products might appeal to children.

The Department of Health has worked extensively in this area. I commend all those who have been working on this and providing assistance to support various initiatives, including the development and expansion of the Victorian networks of smoke-free healthcare services to share best practice and develop consistent, comprehensive smoke-free policies in hospitals.

Members have heard me talk about when I worked in the public health system. I recall clearly when smoking was permitted in hospital wards -- we had designated areas of wards where patients were allowed to smoke freely. In this day and age it is extraordinary to think of that occurring. I am pleased that health services and the department are working collaboratively to ensure that smoke-free policies are adhered to in public hospitals.

A number of other initiatives are being undertaken. In January the government announced it would quadruple the penalties for possession of illicit tobacco by retailers and wholesalers to dissuade and discourage the trade in illicit tobacco. We have just heard about the enormous problem with methamphetamines, particularly ice. That is an illegal drug; clearly tobacco is not, but this is about the sale of illicit tobacco. We want to send the message that it is completely unacceptable.

From July next year smoking will be banned in all Victorian prisons. This will have the effect of improving the health and wellbeing of both prisoners and staff. In August the government announced that it would ban smoking in outdoor dining areas during its next term. We have done an enormous amount to send a very strong health message to Victorians that smoking has a devastating effect on one's health and on the community, and clearly it is a huge financial cost to our health system as well.

Cancer Council Victoria does a tremendous job in supporting the government's various measures. I was pleased to be with the Minister for Health just a couple of weekends ago to see the launch of the Triggers campaign. Quit Victoria in conjunction with the Cancer Council has launched a campaign to assist people to understand which triggers might start them smoking again if they have given up. The campaign provides smokers with strategies, ideas and tips on how to deal with things that might trigger in somebody the urge to smoke, such as having a drink with friends or being at a party. That campaign is currently being rolled out, and I congratulate Cancer Council Victoria and Quit Victoria on the initiative. I hope it will assist the many people who have given up smoking to avoid taking up the habit again.This is another demonstration of what the government is doing to further protect Victorians, promote a healthy message about what we need to be doing and particularly to send the message to young people and children that smoking has harmful effects. That is what this amendment to the Tobacco Act 1987 does. I commend the bill to the house.

 

 

Mr ELASMAR (Northern Metropolitan) -- I rise to speak on the Tobacco Amendment Bill 2014. Like my colleague Ms Lewis I indicate that we are not opposing the bill. Much has been done over the last few years by way of legislation to minimise the smoking of tobacco in our state. That smoking is harmful is not in dispute. Measures taken to date have seen a steady decline in the sale of tobacco products, and most kids today do not think smoking is cool. However, there is no doubt that constant exposure to smoking is harmful to the perceptions of young people.

Adults or, worse, hero figures in the movies who smoke can impress young people and motivate them to consider taking up smoking to emulate their elders or contemporaries.

Smoking is now banned at or near public outdoor children's playground equipment, sporting venues during organised under-age sporting events, outdoor areas at public swimming pools, at skate parks and on patrolled beaches. Most Victorians support such legislation, and the bill takes the next step in banning smoking in outdoor areas near children. Smoking will also be banned within 4 metres of the entrance to children's indoor play centres.

The bill amends the Tobacco Act 1987 to ban smoking near entrances to and within the grounds of all 6400 Victorian secondary and primary schools, preschools, kindergartens and childcare centres, at and near entrances to children's indoor play centres and at Victorian public premises.

This includes all Victorian public hospitals, registered community health centres and some Victorian government buildings. The bill makes two minor and technical amendments to the Tobacco Act 1987. The penalty for possession of illicit tobacco by wholesalers and retailers is quadrupled, discouraging the illicit tobacco trade, and inspectors' powers of entry are amended to strengthen their capacity to enforce outdoor smoking bans.

I do not need to go any further. Again, the opposition will not oppose the bill.

 

 

Mr RAMSAY (Western Victoria) -- It gives me pleasure to rise to speak on the bill this morning. In doing so I acknowledge that I have always been a strong supporter of the Minister for Health's move in a step-by-step process to try to prohibit smoking and the impacts of smoking, particularly in areas where there are children, and to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas.

It is also on the record that I had a mission when I became a member of Parliament that I would do all I could to reduce the impact of smoking not only on those who smoke -- and for the 4000 Victorians a year who die of smoking-related causes -- but also on those who are impacted by passive smoking. My father was a smoker, and he died of a smoking-related illness. My first mission in life as a member of Parliament is to do everything I can to try to encourage those who smoke to quit and to protect those who are affected by smoke. My father's smoking led to pancreatic cancer, so my second mission is to ensure that we continue research into this cancer that affects so many people. They are my two missions. I am pleased to be able to contribute to reducing the impact of smoking and pancreatic cancer at every opportunity.

I am pleased to support this legislation. I will not go into detail; Ms Crozier did a very good job of providing the basis for this legislation and talking about the prohibitions that will occur when the legislation is passed.

I want to put on the record that I look forward to the minister introducing legislation in relation to prohibiting smoking in outdoor dining areas. I have made many contributions to debates in which I have mentioned that every time I have a meal in an outdoor dining area I am overcome by smoke wafting from the rude, inconsiderate and ignorant people who continue to smoke in areas where people are eating. I find it quite offensive. It is very bad for the health of people in the vicinity.

I look forward to the introduction of legislation dealing with that issue, and I certainly support this legislation, which defines areas where smoking will be prohibited. I also commend the Minister for Health for increasing the penalties associated with illicit tobacco and illicit smoking. I believe the penalties have almost quadrupled in this legislation. I commend the bill to the house.

 

Motion agreed to.

Read second time.

    Third reading

Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) -- By leave, I move:

    That the bill be now read a third time.

I thank honourable members in the house for their support of this bill.

In the tradition of tobacco control measures this bill has been passed with the support of all parties in the Parliament, and that is an important matter. This legislation continues the government's steady incrementalist approach to putting further restrictions on tobacco availability and sending a clear message, in particular about children, families and young people. As a number of members have outlined, this approach is having a steady and positive effect.

I also put on the record the partnership with a number of key non-government organisations -- the Heart Foundation, Cancer Council Victoria, the Australian Medical Association and VicHealth -- in this process. I note the reliance on advice from VicHealth over a longer period. I also thank my department, in particular the tobacco control section. I thank Laura Andrew and her team, including Heidi Rose, and the department's legal team for their support through this process.

Motion agreed to.

Read third time.

QUORUM

Mr LENDERS (Southern Metropolitan) -- Acting President, I draw your attention to the state of the house.

Quorum formed.

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