Page 4278 - Week 13 - Thursday, 17 November 2005
In taking the easy way out with the 75:25 rule, the ACT government has embedded more problems for smokers in clubs and other venues further down the track. It has offered a similar thoughtless, unhealthy path to other jurisdictions and has condemned an unknown number of workers and patrons to uncalled-for illness.
MR CORBELL: (Molonglo—Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (10.54): It is interesting that in her speech Dr Foskey tells us what is wrong but she offers no alternative of her own. She offers no definition of “enclosed”, which is a requirement under the act. The act prohibits smoking in enclosed public areas. How does Dr Foskey interpret “enclosed”? She expresses no view on that matter, and I think that is telling.
It has been said that, in order to see clearly where you are going, you need first to look at where you have come from. We have come a long way since the enactment of landmark legislation 11 years ago that established non-smoking environments in the majority of enclosed public places. At the time the legislation was the subject of heated debate and serious concerns among some sectors of the hospitality industry. The fact that this legislation has been so well accepted, so successful and so highly valued is testimony to all-party support within this chamber and to strong support throughout the community.
After a 12-month phase-in period, smoke-free dining took effect in the ACT on 5 December 1995. Since that time only a handful of restaurants have chosen to obtain an exemption to permit indoor smoking. Restaurants and other businesses have continued to thrive. Children who are now 10 years old have never experienced tobacco smoke inside a restaurant, cafe, shop, cinema or theatre. Throughout the lifetime of these young ACT citizens, most places where they would have had occasion to go, such as food outlets, local shopping centres, cinemas, theatres and sporting, recreational, and entertainment venues have all been smoke-free.
There have been exceptions because of the exemptions that are allowed under our current legislation. Smoking has remained in about 100 premises, primarily pubs, nightclubs and licensed clubs. But we now have legislation that will phase out smoking in these remaining smoking areas inside hospitality premises by 1 December next year. What does this mean? It means that, in a little over a year’s time, people will be able to go anywhere in the ACT and visit a restaurant, pub or club without having to breathe other people’s smoke. That is the major public health benefit and advance as a result of this legislation.
The impending removal of exemptions will mean that the concept of an enclosed public place will become much more significant for an understanding of the requirements of the act. It means that we must have an unambiguous definition. We have been able to get away with it because of the exemptions regime, but we cannot any more. We must define “enclosed”. If there were a clear, scientifically grounded and generally accepted way to formulate smoke-free enclosed public places requirements, then the job of the government would have been much easier. But the reality is unfortunately not that simple.
In developing the regulation we found that the meaning of “enclosed” was characterised by a distinct lack of clarity, an absence of scientific evidence for any particular approach and very little agreement or consistency, either nationally or internationally. As with