Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 1551 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
I will wind up by saying that I chose not to ram this through; I chose not to introduce legislation. I chose not to say, "Terry Connolly instituted a consultative process seven or eight years ago. Let's take that as a given and legislate now." It is important that a proposal such as this has community support and some community ownership. It is only through broad-ranging consultative mechanisms that the community will come to understand and own this issue, which is what I expect will be the case through this process. We will see what happens, and I look forward to the debate and to community involvement.
Tobacco-use by young people
MS DUNDAS: My question is for the Chief Minister and Minister for Health. Minister, recently results were released that showed that about 30 per cent of young people aged 16 and 17 smoked tobacco in the week before they were surveyed. While I am pleased at the many educative measures this government is undertaking and was glad to see you at the launch of National Tobacco Free Youth Day, at the other end of the scale what is the government doing to stop retailers from selling tobacco to people under the age of 18?
MR STANHOPE: Thank you, Ms Dundas. I notice that there is a matter of public importance that goes to some of these issues and the survey Ms Dundas refers to. I might use the opportunity of that debate to flesh out, on the basis of some extra advice that I will be able to obtain before then, the legislative provisions and their utilisation in relation to prohibitions on sales to young people.
I do not know the specific legislative provisions and the penalties that prevail. But I do remember, from a debate in the last Assembly when penalties for the sale of tobacco to people under the age of 16 were raised, that there had not been a successful prosecution in the previous five years for that offence. I will clarify some of those issues, Ms Dundas. I have this recollection of no prosecution in the previous five years or so, which highlights the intractable nature of regulating the sale of a lawful product such as this.
One of the most worrying statistics-and I am sure this is what Mr Pratt is going to focus on in the matter of public importance this afternoon-revealed in the latest survey of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use by young people is the extent to which young women are taking up the consumption of tobacco. The most worrying statistics in a range of worrying statistics reveal the extent to which anti-smoking campaigns have been effective-indeed, one could question whether they have been effective at all-in relation to deterring girls and younger women from taking up smoking as a habit.
We all know that the abuse of alcohol and tobacco alone wreaks more havoc, creates more damage and is a greater cost and burden to the community than the use or abuse of all the illicit substances that are so much the focus of politicians and the media. One of the particularly worrying features of that survey was the abuse of tobacco, so the issue you raise is a very important one, Ms Dundas. We need to continue to focus on the education programs which are in place to ensure that our children do not take up smoking.
MS DUNDAS: I have a supplementary question. Minister, in other jurisdictions quality assurance of the implementation of preventative measures is often done by sending under-age people into retail outlets to buy cigarettes whilst under the supervision of