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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2432..


MRS CROSS (continuing):

settings. Passive smoking contributes significantly to the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and may increase the risk of death from all causes.

Environmental tobacco smoke exposure is associated with a 20 per cent increase in the progression of atherosclerosis. Current smokers have a 50 per cent increase, and past smokers have a 25 per cent increase. Some of these effects may be cumulative and irreversible.

The World Health Organisation has a global health treaty which addresses just this issue and which, as of 20 June this year, has been ratified. Forty countries plus the European Union have signed this treaty, and others are intending to do so. Unfortunately, Australia has yet to sign, and I do not know whether we will. This treaty is the only global health-related treaty to be passed in decades.

Smoking is an important health issue for all parts of the world, with enormous economic implications as well. Dr Brundtland, who is the Director General of the World Health Organisation, made a statement last week in which she said:

This treaty makes us accountable to the world. It also makes the world accountable to itself. We are racing against time that clocks 5 million tobacco deaths in the world every year.

Smoking is a contentious issue that always evokes a response from those that do it, those that do not and those that feel that their income is directly related to smoking. I'm aware that clubs and pubs in Canberra feel that there will be a drop in patronage if smoking on their premises is outlawed. I'm also aware of the numbers of patrons who will be very happy to welcome the introduction of a ban in enclosed public places. Overall, though, the long-term health outcomes, and hence the economic outcomes for the people of Canberra, will be far better served by this bill.

When it comes to contentious issues, governments often move very slowly and are often very indecisive. As we all know, delay is a great political tool which governments in particular are quick to use when dealing with an electorally damaging issue or an idea that has been developed by an opposing group. Sometimes, it is important to draw the proverbial line in the sand and act so that there is actually a baseline to work from, so that those in the community can experience improved health outcomes.

This bill employs a harm minimisation approach to a very difficult health issue. There are always problems with a solution that simply places bans. Problems are also created when demands are made on the general population in legislation. We as legislators do, on occasion, need to take a stand and be prepared to wear the flack if the result will mean a definite improvement in health and wellbeing for the population as a whole.

When seatbelt legislation was introduced, there was a huge outcry, and many claimed that their civil liberties were infringed upon. After a very short time, the education program and the very obvious resulting lower death rate from car crashes led to acceptance of the legislation by a great percentage of the population. These days many of us feel unsafe if we are not belted into our car seats.


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