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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 4343 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

It has long been recognised that environmental tobacco smoke causes a significant health risk and can lead to respiratory disease, cancer and even death. Mrs Cross outlined in her presentation speech many of the facts relating to the health risks of passive smoking, so I will not repeat them, but I think it needs to be emphasised that this is a real health issue and we are discussing the future health outcomes of the people of Canberra. We, as representatives of our community, have a duty of care to ensure that the health of the Canberra community is protected, and that fact should not be lost in this debate.

The recent government discussion paper on smoke-free enclosed public places highlighted the overwhelming evidence that this proposal will benefit the health of consumers, workers and employers. I think all members of the Assembly agree that the introduction of smoke-free enclosed public places is necessary and inevitable in the ACT.

Numerous medical reports have shown that even the best air ventilation systems do not remove all of the toxins in environmental tobacco smoke, which continue to cause harm. There are also problems with enforcement in respect of the use of ventilation systems, which we know in Canberra are sometimes not turned on, not properly cleaned or not working correctly. The ventilation exemptions have not worked in the ACT and it is time we moved to a complete smoke-free system.

There is widespread public support for this proposal, with the vast majority of people in support of smoke-free enclosed public places. The courts are also increasingly recognising the damage caused by passive smoking to employees, with successful landmark cases where employees have won significant compensation from employers for allowing them to work in an unsafe environment. This situation cannot continue and we should not be waiting until employees develop cancer before we act to protect their health and work environments.

We also need to recognise the costs of smoking, passive or otherwise, to our public health system, which continues to be burdened with the responsibility of caring for those who have developed illnesses from environmental tobacco smoke, at a considerable cost to the taxpayer and at the expense of a better health system for all.

I would like to note that there have been issues raised about the cost of making our clubs and pubs smoke free and the impact that will have on businesses in the territory. This is one aspect of the debate. I do understand that clubs are concerned about depreciation costs and the impact on their business. However, the few clubs or pubs already in Canberra that are completely smoke free are always busy, especially, like any other pub, on a Friday or Saturday night. The people who turn up to these clubs or pubs smoke outside as opposed to inside. Everybody inside has a good time, free from passive smoke. These businesses are not about to shut down. So I think that even though there may be some concerns over the transition period, the majority of the public want to move to smoke-free environments. I think the majority of the public will continue to have a good time in public venues that move to being smoke free.

Ensuring that enclosed public places must be smoke free sends the important message to the community about the type of social environment we believe is healthy and safe for all

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