Tobacco Amendment Bill 2016

Written on the 9 September 2016

1 September 2016


Second reading 

GEORGIE CROZIER (LIB - Southern Metropolitan)



I am very pleased to be able to rise this evening and speak to this important piece of legislation, the Tobacco Amendment Bill 2016. As I have been in the chamber listening to the various contributions, Mr Finn and Mr Morris have reminded me of those days gone by, and indeed I recall, quite unbelievably, when there was smoking by staff and patients in hospitals.

Mr Finn - And doctors.

Ms CROZIER -  And by doctors most certainly by doctors and nurses. It was not unknown for a lot of health professionals to have a cigarette in their breaks, and half the cafeteria would be smoked out. I remember even at the Royal Women's Hospital there would be patients smoking on the wards. It was quite extraordinary. We would sit around having handover with a cup of coffee, and those that smoked smoked and those that did not had to suffer that vile smell and the impact of cigarette smoke.

Now, I am not a reformed smoker, so I do not have those issues that people have described in their contributions, but it is very difficult, I do understand, for smokers to give up cigarettes to be able to kick the habit. Congratulations to all those who do, because we do know the very significant health impacts that smoking has, not only on the individual but also in terms of the secondary harm effects of second-hand smoke.

This bill goes to a couple of areas. It is to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas and also to regulate the sale, promotion and use of e-cigarette products that is so that they will be treated in the same manner as cigarettes. Can I say that I think there has been a very good bipartisan approach by governments of all persuasions to ensure that our community understands the risks of smoking and that through those efforts there have been significant reforms that have been undertaken over the years.

If you look here in Victoria, you see that indeed there have been some significant tobacco-related bans and restrictions on what people can and cannot do in relation to tobacco products. For instance the sale of tobacco products to people under 18 is prohibited, but there is no age limit for legally possessing these products. A ban on smoking in cars carrying children under the age of 18 became effective on 1 January 2010, a ban on smoking within 4 metres of school entrances became effective in May 2015 and smoking was prohibited on all areas of train stations and raised platform tram stops as of March 2014. In relation to a couple of those reforms, I think it was the former member Mr Drum, was it not, Mr Finn, who was very strong on banning cigarette smoking in cars?

Mr Finn He was. My word he was.

Ms CROZIER -  Yes. And am I correct in saying he brought a private members bill in?

Mr Finn He did. And now he has taken it to Canberra.

Ms CROZIER Well, now he is in Canberra, so maybe he can have some more influence up there. Nevertheless, he had a great influence here. So I am pleased that those initiatives I have just spoken about happened well, with Mr Drum, obviously from opposition in 2010 but having a great impact as a local member championing that banning of exposure of children to smoking in cars. I did note when I was looking at this that quite a number of fines have been handed out in the six years that ban has been in place. Again I would like to put on record the work of the former Minister for Health, Mr Davis, in relation to some of the areas I spoke about. There were also bans on beaches; at skate parks; in other sporting facilities, as has already been mentioned; and in other public areas. Significantly also Ms Wooldridge banned smoking in youth justice and mental health facilities.

So there was this broad suite of reforms undertaken by the coalition government of course also in correctional facilities. Unfortunately it was the Andrews government that had responsibility for the implementation of that particular legislative requirement, and through that we saw last year the biggest riots in a correctional facility in the state's history. This was extremely unfortunate and extremely expensive; in fact it ran into tens of millions of dollars. That policy was absolutely botched by the Andrews government in bringing smoking bans into the correctional facilities. The same legislation had been acted on in other parts of the country, so it is inexcusable that it should have had such a devastating effect in Victoria. Of course the Victorian taxpayer is paying for that botched implementation by the Andrews government.

Getting back to this piece of legislation, I note that other areas of the bill go to what was undertaken by the previous coalition government: that was something we announced the banning of smoking in the outdoor dining areas from 1 August 2017.

This bill obviously delivers on that commitment, and I am pleased that the current government is working on the reforms and the legislative requirements that were undertaken by the coalition government in terms of this important area.

I want to just speak to aspects of the e-cigarette products. I note that there was some very passionate debate in this area. I was listening to Ms Patten's contribution about her concerns about e-cigarettes. In fact I was recalling that I had dinner last night with some friends of mine. One of those friends sat next to me, and he was puffing away on one of these things, one of these vaping machines. I found it quite disconcerting, actually, because we are so used to not having cigarettes and to people just being respectful and courteous and not smoking. But he was there, vaping away not that I said anything. I probably should have, but I did not. It just reminded me, when I was looking at what e-cigarettes actually mean.

If you look at some of the concerns that have been raised I know Ms Patten said it is not a tobacco product in these e-cigarettes the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have made various statements in relation to e-cigarettes. They do not have tobacco, but if I can just read from this statement:

The appeal of flavoured e-cigarettes to children and adolescents is also of concern to some, with studies reporting rapid uptake of e-cigarettes among adolescents

I think that is a concern in relation to what we are trying to do. We are trying to prevent children taking up anything that is to do with smoking, so there is certainly an influential element to the e-cigarettes and the appeal of e-cigarettes. The NHMRC have further concerns, saying:

Some experts also suggest that e-cigarettes, with or without nicotine, may be harmful. Some have been reported to contain chemicals such as propylene glycol, glycerol or ethylene glycol, which may form toxic or cancer-causing compounds when vaporised.

I think that is the point here, and I think others have made the point that we need to err on the side of caution. We do not, obviously, want to be too restrictive in what an individual can and cannot do. I am a great believer in individual responsibility, but nevertheless, if there is concern among these bodies that have talked about those very toxic chemicals or carcinogens that are potentially in these e-cigarettes, I do not think we can ignore that. I think that is what is at the heart of this particular area of the bill. To have that regulated is a sensible move, and I do not have a problem with it. I understand that over time there will be more research done on this, but if there are these concerns that carcinogenic and toxic chemicals are in them, then I think we should err on the side of caution.

I know that a lot of consultation has been undertaken with various health bodies and others involved in the hospitality and other industry sectors that would be directly affected by this bill, and I believe that there are no major concerns that have been raised regarding it, which I think is very positive. I think that most people and most organisations, and indeed the sector that will be affected by this legislation, are supportive of doing what they can, and with proper consultation and proper planning they will move towards what is required of them by this bill.

I, like other members of the opposition, support the bill. I do not think I need to say too much more in relation to the points I have already made. But as others have said, if we can do anything to prevent someone from smoking or taking up this very addictive habit that can cause some extremely serious health issues, then we should be doing all that we can. I along with my colleagues support the bill. I commend the bill to the house.



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