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aimed at increasing pain and suffering in the community, whichever way you describe it. They will say that it is just a matter of giving people choice; but it is really about hooking people on a habit which increases pain and suffering and which is of significant cost to the community. They deserve to be condemned.

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Minister for Health and Community Care) (10.51): This would have to be one of the very few issues on which Mr Berry and I see eye to eye. Indeed, except for some elements of the passage of the smoke-free areas legislation last year, there has not been one single occasion, that I can recall anyway, on which I have disagreed with the actions that the previous Government took in the area of cutting the problems associated with smoking in our community. However, while we congratulate ourselves as an Assembly today on having introduced a number of “firsts” around Australia in the area of tobacco control, there is certainly no room for complacency. Young people can still far too easily get tobacco from retailers around Canberra. In fact, only one retailer has been prosecuted under the Tobacco Act, last year. This year, we believe, the police will conduct a number of further surveillance exercises in the area of tobacco sales. While young people can simply walk into retail outlets around Australia, have access to tobacco vending machines and so on, we will lose the battle of trying to stop particularly very young children from starting to smoke.

The Government is also examining the report of a committee - comprising tobacco retailer, youth, health, consumer affairs and education representatives - which reviewed the Tobacco Act. Later this year we will certainly be considering improving the law and its enforcement, particularly with regard to inspection, monitoring and tightening up some of the advertising loopholes that exist in our current legislation. We certainly hope that Monday's announcement to increase the tobacco excise will be a strong disincentive to people to take up smoking - again, particularly to young people. I certainly hope that it will encourage a number of people to quit.

The Government, through its ongoing grants to the ACT Cancer Society, which runs the Quit program, has provided support for people to stop smoking. I congratulate the previous Government for doing that. That will certainly be continued. The Government has also made a commitment to channel 5 per cent of the tobacco excise into health promotion activities. That is something that the previous Government always refused to do; but it is something that this Assembly has supported, certainly at committee level. So, we are really hoping that the increased level of government tax on tobacco products will mean that substantially more money will be able to be channelled into the area of stopping people from smoking.

Mr Berry: Is that 5 per cent of the increase or 5 per cent of the lot?

MRS CARNELL: Five per cent of the total, Mr Berry. We believe that that really will reduce that very strong demand for tobacco products amongst the very young children. I refer to children under the age of 15. We know that, at this stage, the problem is particularly with young girls. Young women are taking up smoking at a faster rate than ever before, and we, in our community, must take head-on the challenge of stopping that happening. The only way we can do that is with good health education and health promotion campaigns, and certainly by substantially increasing the funding to the Health Promotion Fund. We believe that that is a step in the right direction.

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