Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 3118..
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (11.04): Mr Speaker, I want to start by quoting from the tobacco control research and evaluation briefing document that was put out in August 2005. The document, which quotes a number of sources, says:
Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease in Australia, costing around $12.7b a year in health care, loss of productivity, life and social costs. Most adults report having started smoking before the age of 18 years. Therefore, reducing and preventing adolescent smoking is a high priority.
And that is what we stand to address here today in debating the Tobacco (Compliance Testing) Amendment Bill 2006.
The bill is intended to permit young people to be used to establish whether retailers are prepared to sell tobacco products to people under the age of 18. Initially, I have to say I have some concerns, particularly about whether the bill constitutes some form of entrapment. We in the Liberal Party would never countenance laws that provide for entrapment and that involve having people break the law to prove the law. If such proposals are contemplated, you have to then ask whether the original law is appropriate or just silly. We will support this bill in principle because we believe, upon checking, that what is proposed is not entrapment and will in fact lead to greater compliance with the law and a reduction in the number of cigarettes being sold to those under the age of 18. I would like to thank the minister and senior officials for the very helpful information that they have provided.
What is of major concern is the extent of smoking among younger people, especially those under the age of 18. If they are smoking, you have to ask: where do they get the cigarettes? I was informed that 24 per cent of those under the age of 18 who smoke claim that they purchased the cigarettes themselves, and that is of major concern. A document by Tutt states:
Reducing adolescent smoking is an area of highest priority. Maintaining high retailer compliance is a strategy which has been shown to be effective both overseas, and now in Australia. This study suggests that initial high retail compliance will affect 12 and 13 year old smoking rates, but will only produce substantial effects up to the 17 year age group if the compliance rate is maintained for a number of years. This strategy, and further policy to support it, such as tobacco retailer licensing, should be undertaken in all areas.
It is interesting to look at the effect of legislation around the country and the number of prosecutions for selling to minors. I think most members would be surprised to learn that in Queensland from 1998 to 25 January 2005 there were only 14 prosecutions for selling tobacco to minors, and that is fewer than two a year. In Victoria, from 2002 to January 2005 there were 22 prosecutions, and that is just four a year. In South Australia before similar legislation was introduced they had five prosecutions in two years. Tasmania must be doing it differently, because between May 2003 and February 2005 that state had 25 prosecutions, which is about 12 a year. Indeed, in the ACT, on the information supplied by the government, the police initiated two such prosecutions in the 1990s and there does not seem to be any record of a prosecution since. So we have a problem and what the government has proposed is a solution to that problem.