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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 4345 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

negative aspects of smoking, and it is wonderful that so many people have been working hard to achieve a positive outcome for the hospitality workers in particular and Canberrans in general.

One of the things that we as legislators often have to do is have the courage to make decisions that do not please some sections of the community. This is one of those cases. I know that this legislation will upset some people in our community, just as the decision in 1994 to outlaw smoking in most workplaces upset some people. However, since that decision almost a decade ago, which at the time was a landmark decision, it is now universally accepted that smokers go outside before lighting up at work. A few people still grumble about having to do that but no-one defies the law, and our workplaces are much safer for it.

However, there are still some workers we have failed to protect. This bill moves to address that situation. It also moves to protect non-smoking patrons at hotels and clubs. We do not allow smokers to light up in restaurants, shopping centres and other enclosed places, because we know and recognise the harm that passive smoking can do to others. A number of studies have shown that even when establishments have exhaust fans to remove exhaled cigarette smoke, the amount of tobacco smoke drifting into non-smoking areas is sometimes greater than in those areas where smoking is allowed. This means that people, including children out for a meal with their parents, can be subjected to the effects of tobacco smoke.

As legislators, we must make the hard decision to address this situation without delay. There is no need to have further discussions or consultations with self-interested groups. We know the dangers, we know how serious the risks are and we should be condemned if we do not act now.

I remember vividly the anguish of a constituent as he told me how his father had to have a laryngectomy to combat throat cancer. He had never smoked a cigarette in his life. The cancer was caused by passive smoking. The operation means he can no longer speak without the aid of a mechanical device that makes him sound like a robot. Consequently he feels like a social outcast. Despite being a friendly, outgoing man, he now has difficulty socialising as he finds it difficult to be heard except in the quietest of places.

He no longer helps out with his grandchildren's sporting teams to avoid the embarrassment to himself and to his grandchildren when others, including adults, make fun of his voice. He can no longer take part in his favourite pastime, swimming, as he would drown if water went down the hole in his throat. I could go on about the difficulties this poor man and others like him have to endure but I am sure many of us know of similar cases, and if we do not act now these cases will continue to occur. I do not think any of us want that on our conscience when it can so easily be avoided.

I noticed with interest the government's own comments in the Canberra Times last week stating that more than 220 Australians are killed each year by passive smoke. One hundred and three of those are children under the age of 15-children! This is totally unacceptable and anything we can do to reduce that figure must be done immediately. This bill at least goes some of the way to doing that.

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