Second Reading

Resumed from 6 September 2017.

[Speeches and comments from various members]

HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [3.12 pm]: On behalf of the Greens, I rise as the lead speaker on the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Bill 2017. I note that this bill gives effect to amendments that were recommended from a review that was undertaken by the Department of Health back in 2011, which included extensive consultation with the public and stakeholders. Also, in 2016, the previous government tabled the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Bill 2016 in Parliament. I understand that the government is now introducing the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Bill 2017 in order to address some of the issues that were identified during the 2011 review. Substantively, there is very little difference between the two bills.

Broadly speaking, the amendment bill will strengthen longstanding legislation with the intention of reducing tobacco-related harm within our community. For this reason, I will be speaking in support of this bill on behalf of the Greens. There are a number of key features in the bill. I do not want us to lose sight of some of the really important measures that this bill is endeavouring to undertake. It will introduce minimum age requirements for the sale of tobacco products. I will have a little more to say about that in a moment. It will prohibit the sale of cigarette packs that can be split into portions, and also fruit and confectionery-flavoured cigarettes. It will further strengthen requirements for the display and promotion of tobacco products. It will also prohibit shopper loyalty schemes, streamline arrangements for the renewal of licences and prohibit the issue of a retailers’ licence for sporting and cultural events. It will also expand and streamline the process for appointing restricted investigators and provide a time period applicable to applications for forfeiture orders.

Tobacco-related harm is a very real thing within Australia. In fact, tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable disease and premature death in Australia. It is estimated that two-thirds of smokers are likely to die because they smoked. Smoking is responsible for nine per cent of the total burden of disease and 20 per cent of deaths in Aboriginal Australians. In WA, over 1 500 people die from smoking-related diseases each year. There is no doubt that significant advancements have been made in the reduction of smoking rates. As mentioned by Hon Tjorn Sibma, it is true that there has been a generational change in the rate of smoking. In 1982, 40 per cent of Australian adults were smokers compared with 13 per cent in 2016, which is a significant reduction. In the past, WA has had the reputation of leading the way in implementing policy in legislation and has had some of the lowest rates of smoking in the world. In 2015, nine per cent of people in WA aged 18 and over were daily smokers. From 1984 to 2014, weekly smoking rates of Western Australian children—notably 12 to 17-year-olds—fell from 21 per cent to five per cent. Although the overall rates have declined, these significant gains are not evident in certain groups. I am particularly concerned to note that that includes people with chronic and sustained mental health conditions, Aboriginal people, prisoners, people from some overseas countries and also members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex community, who tend to have higher rates of smoking. For example, between 1994 and 2013, the prevalence of smoking amongst Aboriginal people in Western Australia declined from 51 per cent to only 43 per cent, which is still vastly greater than the general population.

There is a significant intersection between smoking and poor mental health and issues of disadvantage and marginalisation. People who experience social or financial disadvantage are often the most affected by physical and financial harm brought about by smoking. The National Drug Strategy Household Survey produced data that showed that in Australia in 2013, daily smokers were twice as likely to have high or very high levels of psychological distress compared with people who had never smoked and they were twice as likely to have been diagnosed or treated for a mental health condition. Smoking prevalence tends to increase the severity of psychiatric disorders. Compared with the general population, people with mental illness have higher smoking rates and they tend to have levels of nicotine dependence and a disproportionate health and financial burden from smoking. In fact, one Australian study found that people with psychotic illness smoked an average of 21 cigarettes a day compared with an average of 14 cigarettes a day smoked by the general population.

As I mentioned, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex community’s prevalence of smoking is also far greater than that of the general population; in fact, it is more than double the national smoking rate. As a result, each year, more deaths result from tobacco use in the LGBTI community than from HIV, illicit drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined. When we introduce exactly this sort of legislation, I think it is very important that we are always very mindful of the potential impacts on some of the most disadvantaged members of our community. It does not mean that these controls should not be introduced but at the same time special attention should be given towards best supporting those for whom smoking is particularly entrenched. This issue has arisen many times, particularly for people who live with severe and ongoing mental health issues for whom it can be extraordinarily difficult to break tobacco addiction. It is important that we are mindful of providing the necessary supports for people with mental illness to enable them to break their addictions effectively. Otherwise, we find that they feel as though they have no choice other than to expend their money on cigarettes often at the expense even of accommodation. We should also ensure that any proceeds from tobacco taxes are channelled back into tobacco control and health promotion activities. Again, I would like to see specific targeting of at-risk groups.

I really want to emphasise the need for adequate funding for health promotion and access to treatment. We know that progress in the development of cessation treatments for people with mental health conditions has been very slow and there needs to be greater focus on this. There is growing evidence to suggest that stopping smoking is not detrimental to psychiatric symptoms and improves mental health and wellbeing. But we know that these programs need to be targeted and that people need to be monitored closely because we also know that smoking can and does interfere with medications. We need to ensure that adequate funding for comprehensive public health campaigns is targeted at these groups. In the past, some of these particular programs, unfortunately, have often faced cuts in the mental health sector. It strikes me that it is really critical that we pay far more attention to this. I am also aware that when forensic mental health patients go into the Frankland Centre, they are no longer able to smoke. That has meant that the centre provides significant support for the people who are in there trying to deal with issues around nicotine withdrawal. We really need to look at some sort of ongoing quite concerted effort to ensure that people with chronic mental health issues can be best supported to deal with their nicotine addictions.

The Greens will always support provisions targeted at making it harder for young people to smoke in the first place. It is a pretty sad state of affairs when tobacco companies think it is appropriate to manufacture fruit and confectionery-flavoured cigarettes that are clearly aimed at enticing young people into addiction. We therefore welcome this legislation, which will prevent those sorts of products being sold in WA. Similarly, we are pleased to see the end of cigarette packs that can be split into portions to make buying cigarettes more affordable for young people. I think they are pretty cynical exercises by the tobacco industry and, by any measure, the tobacco industry is demonstrating that it is highly unscrupulous. It is clearly trying to get around regulatory controls by offering exactly these sorts of products. As well as preventing these products from being sold, as this legislation does, and that is good, the Greens would like to see the government introduce bans also on donations from alcohol, tobacco, gambling and pharmaceutical industries at all levels of government.

Discussion has also occurred about the provision to introduce a minimum age requirement for the sale of tobacco products. This is one that I have taken a very close look at, particularly the potential impact on small businesses. On weighing up the pros and cons, the Greens are very clear that this is nevertheless a welcome provision. If there is evidence to indicate that it is harder for a young person to refuse to sell tobacco products to a peer, that is pretty compelling. Apart from anything else, we recognise that tobacco is intended to be an adult product. Just as children cannot sell alcohol or other alcohol products as they are identified, if a particular product is deemed to be suitable for only adults, adults should be selling that product.

The Greens support these provisions and think it is quite important that if we are talking about consent and adults who inhale what still is a legal product and is not subject to prohibition, at the very least the entire realm of the sale of that product needs to lie with adults. In fact, the Greens would like to say that the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Bill does not go quite far enough. The Greens, in fact, would have liked to see an expansion of provisions to ban smoking from more public places, including the international room at the casino. We note that the majority of respondents to public consultation during the review of the act were in favour of extending smoke-free areas to other public outdoor areas, but that is not provided for in this bill. Community exposure to second-hand smoke should be eliminated through regulatory measures that cover all public and work environments, including outdoor places. The dangers of second-hand smoke are well known. I have no intention of trying to deny the science. The statistics from the Department of Health’s own website tell us that nonsmokers exposed to second-hand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 per cent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 per cent. They are people who do not have their individual liberty respected—the right to breathe clean air. In fact, only this year, my electorate office received a complaint about being exposed to smoke when attempting to visit Parliament in the visitors’ gallery right here in this chamber and has requested that I follow that up. I have written to the Parliament, as requested, and expressed their concern that they feel as though they were not able to exercise their right as citizens in this state to watch what is happening in this chamber without being subjected to second-hand smoke.

New South Wales and Queensland have both enacted legislation to ban smoking within four metres of a pedestrian access point to a public building. New South Wales also bans smoking on railway platforms, light-rail stops, light-rail stations, bus stops, taxi ranks and ferry wharves. Given WA’s past status as leading the way in tobacco control, it is disappointing to see that even after enacting this legislation, we will still not meet the equivalent standard in New South Wales or Queensland.

I would also like to make some comments about the amendments to section 23 on cigar stores. I received the same level of correspondence as other members in this place. I was quite concerned when I was presented with the potential scenarios outlined to me. As such, I took it upon myself to contact the drafters of this legislation to speak to them and receive further briefings around the various allegations being presented, which were quite concerning because, as has been mentioned, we may not like tobacco use, but it is still a legal product in this country. Certainly, cigar specialist stores are legal and have every right to ply their trade because tobacco is not an illegal product. I was concerned because the sorts of suggestions being put to me were that these stores would be virtually outlawed. Obviously, that would be a clear overreaction, particularly as people would be still able to purchase cigarettes.

Hon Aaron Stonehouse outlined quite comprehensively the way that cigar stores, particularly Devlin’s, operate and he described quite clearly the way that humidors work. I want to be very clear that I make the following comments based on the further briefings I received. If, indeed, I am in error, I am keen to ensure that my incorrect understanding is rectified as soon as possible. I have been led to believe that there will be relatively minor changes to the way that cigar specialty stores, such as Devlin’s, will operate. As I understand it, customers will still be free to inspect the product before purchase. The difference will be that rather than being able to look through the window of a humidor, the window will require some sort of frosting—it will need to be opaque—and the customer will need to physically walk into the room to be shown the merchandise, to inspect it and to discuss it with the experts in that particular area to determine whether they wish to purchase the product. I understand that there will be some limitations on the way that these products can be advertised on the street-level shopfront, but these stores will be able to clearly state that they sell cigars and cigar-related products, and people will be left with no doubt as to what is available for purchase beyond those doors.

I absolutely accept that people who partake in the habit of smoking cigars are consenting, informed adults who are unlikely to be affected by concerns around price in the same way that people may enjoy a glass of fine wine— wine in excess is not good for you also, but it is terribly nice if it is not—and they will be able to enjoy their cigars. They will be able to continue to enjoy cigars within what people refer to as a cigar bar. If that is not the case, I certainly hope that that will come out in the course of the committee stage. But if that is the case, and the only limitations will be slight changes to the way a shopfront presents and the way people will be able to view the humidor inside the shop itself, then that strikes me as a pretty minimal change that will not necessarily affect the way that that particular shop will operate at all. I also note that the government has an amendment to section 23 that, as I read it, is clearly designed to mitigate some of the concerns of those retailers. Obviously, we will discuss that further when we get to the committee stage.

Overall, I am pleased to see this legislation before us. We have come so far in reducing tobacco harms in Western Australia, but I do not believe that there is any room for complacency. Clearly, there is a great need for increased support to and investment in those communities that still have a relatively high incidence of smoking—I have spoken about that—including people with mental illness, prisoners, Aboriginal people, and members of the LGBTI community. The Greens are supportive of the provisions of this bill, but we would have liked to have seen the expansion of smoking bans to more public places. I am not sure whether the government will ever win on this issue. I recognise that some members in this place feel that this bill goes too far, but, likewise, I can assure the government there are members in this place who believe that the bill does not go far enough.

[Speeches and comments from various members]

HON SIMON O’BRIEN (South Metropolitan) [4.14 pm] ………………………

The health zealots have taken this agenda and run with it, and continue to run with it. Gee, Hon Alison Xamon wants to be a health zealot, so she did a few laps with it today. To what end? Is this a real First World problem? Is this what Parliament has to spend its time on? Is this what our bureaucracy has to spend its time on? Let us turn to the bill and look at what is in it. Not a heck of a lot is particularly earth-shattering because there is not a lot left to track down and do, yet the health zealots, aided and abetted by some sanctimonious ministers, still keep pursuing their never-ending drive to inconvenience smokers. Not that I am inviting unruly interjection, but I have to ask Hon Alison Xamon whether she has ever seen the fruit and confectionery–flavoured cigarettes to which the member referred and which are mentioned in the second reading speech.

Hon Alison Xamon: Have I seen them?


Hon Alison Xamon: No; I do not smoke them either.

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: She has never seen them.

Hon Alison Xamon: No.

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: I have not seen them either.

Hon Alison Xamon: I have been told about them.

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: Has anyone here ever seen these fruit and confectionery–flavoured cigarettes that we are proposing to ban?

Hon Alison Xamon: I have smelt them when I have walked past people.

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: Seriously? I had never heard of them until this bill came in. I have smelt plenty of marijuana cigarettes; I imagine even the Greens would know a little about that, but I have never heard of fruit and confectionery–flavoured cigarettes, but if we want a fruit-flavoured cigarette, we are not going to have one in this town after this bill goes through. Similarly, are split-pack cigarettes a feature nowadays?

Hon Alison Xamon: What is that?

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: Hon Alison Xamon has not seen fruit and confectionary–flavoured cigarettes. Has she seen split-pack cigarettes?

Hon Alison Xamon: Yes, I have seen split-pack cigarettes.

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: Where has she seen them?

Hon Alison Xamon: I have seen the small ones that people walk around with. They are very tiny. They are designed to cater to people who have small amounts of money.

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: We must not have that! I do not know whether they are very small cigarettes or very small packets of cigarettes.

Hon Alison Xamon: They are very small packets. They are often designed for children. That is whom they appeal to because children do not have a lot of disposable income—at least mine do not.

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: Cigarettes are very, very expensive these days.

Hon Alison Xamon: I would say cigarettes are quite expensive.

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: Right. These days cigarettes are very expensive by unit, much to the distress of many of the people whom Hon Alison Xamon is concerned about: people who do not have any money, people who have psychiatric problems, people who are homeless.

Hon Alison Xamon: Yes, which is why we should help them to get off it.

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: Let us heap the grief and aggravation on to them by pricing cigarettes out of their price range because we are doing it for their own good, and are we not smug and self-righteous about it? Heaven forbid that anyone should have a beer and a cigarette in the front bar of the Iron Clad Hotel. Let us ignore problems with methamphetamine and the violence visited upon our community. Let us persecute the last few smokers. We have a bit of information. I have to tell members that I would not rely on a second reading speech from this government very often, and I certainly would not rely on the advice of the health zealot lobby that helps inform this sort of bill, but presumably the government cannot disagree with its own second reading speech when it refers to the relative decline in smoking numbers. It states —

In Western Australia in 2016, just under nine per cent of people aged 16 years and over were daily smokers ...

For a nonsmoking society that hates it all, and all the Greenies saying, “Oh, gee, we cannot have smoking; we have to keep niggling away at people who want fruit-flavoured cigarettes or little packets or something”, that seems like rather a lot of people. When I look at the number of people out on the street, I do not notice one in 11 of them smoking, but they are the figures. That is interesting. Anyway, the second reading speech points out —

In Western Australia in 2016, just under nine per cent of people aged 16 years and over were daily smokers, down from 16 per cent in 2004.

I am not sure how to measure that level of progress. Is that a dramatic improvement or is it something else? The rate of attrition in the number of absolute smoking participants in our community is slowing. Whatever governments do, they will still find people who want to smoke and people who have not been seduced or convinced by all the Quit campaigns, all the pricing of cigarettes out of people’s reach or banning people from smoking in places, making it socially unacceptable, making it too hard. Even the health zealots who wrote this—I make no apology for using that term, by the way, and if anyone wants to see me about it inside or outside this place, do so—state that it is around nine per cent. I do not know. It probably is around 10 per cent of people. That is rock bottom. They are people who are prepared to pay the cost, who do not care about social vilification for daring to be a smoker, and who put up with the inconvenience of not being allowed to smoke just about anywhere. For heaven’s sake, I have seen that councils on the coast have banned smoking on the beach. I would not have thought passive smoking would be much of a problem on a windswept ocean beach, but apparently it is.

Hon Alison Xamon: It is.

Hon SIMON O’BRIEN: Oh, deary, deary me! It is all too hard, is it not? What does the government do now? It will not try to help smokers who want to get off cigarettes—those last nine or 10 per cent. It is not prepared to help them; it is not interested. Our health authorities do not give a damn. All they are concerned about is chasing down the last surviving cigar retailer and persecuting him out of existence, and mucking around with fruit-flavoured cigarettes, which is hardly the biggest issue confronting our society. However, when we come to measures that might assist the remaining hardcore smokers to desist from their habit, the answer is no. Electronic cigarettes have been backed by the British Medical Association and various other authorities around the world, and e-cigs and vaping work. They are not going to work here in Western Australia, though, are they? That is because we have some small-minded people who tend to be Ministers for Health who cannot do anything except toe the official line given to them by the health zealots about how we have to crack down ever more and more on smokers, always clouded in, “But it’s for all the right reasons.” That is rubbish. They are hypocrites and wastrels—the lot of them. Why do government members not get dinkum? If they want to do something about providing some assistance to those people who are hardcore smokers, they should look at their own policies. Instead of trying to give them a pain in the neck with everything they do and instead of trying to snub their nose at them, what about doing something that is going to help? I will resume my remarks shortly after question time no doubt, Madam President.

The PRESIDENT: Hon Simon O’Brien, I look forward to listening to your comments on this bill and we will now adjourn the debate for question time.

Debate interrupted, pursuant to standing orders.


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