Page 4775 - Week 11 - Thursday, 20 October 2011

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Executive business—precedence

Ordered that executive business be called on.

Smoking in Cars with Children (Prohibition) Bill 2011

Debate resumed from 25 August 2011, on motion by Ms Gallagher:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HANSON (Molonglo) (4.12): I rise today in support of this legislation. The National Health and Medical Research Council states that the negative health effects related to children’s exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke include the increased risk of asthma, lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis, coughing and wheezing, and sudden infant death syndrome. Therefore, it is important to ensure that children’s exposure to second-hand smoke is minimised. However, the tools used to achieve this must be balanced against individual’s rights. The tools used must prove that they will result in real and measurable changes in behaviour, and thus must be constructed in a manner that minimises the impact on individual freedom.

The Smoking in Cars with Children (Prohibition) Bill 2011 seeks to reduce the number of children exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke as part of a wider review into action on smoking in the ACT. Whilst the Canberra Liberals support this bill today, it is important to note that each individual measure that is aimed at changes in smoking behaviour must be measured against the impact it has on the liberty of the person.

The important factor in the smoking in cars legislation is that it focuses on the rights of the child—the rights of a child not to be exposed to the dangerous and harmful chemicals that are a product of tobacco products. Children have smaller lung capacity, smaller body weight and an underdeveloped immune system. This means they are more likely to develop respiratory and ear infections when exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke.

A Royal College of Physicians report in 2010 revealed that passive smoking triggers 22,000 cases of asthma and wheezing in children every year. Around 9,500 hospital admissions among children are linked to the effects of second-hand smoke inside and outside the family home. Forty babies, this report states, die from sudden infant death syndrome every year caused by passive smoking—one in five of all such deaths.

The contained area of a car increases the effect of the tobacco smoke on children. A Harvard University study measuring air quality in passenger cars under actual driving conditions found unsafe levels of second-hand smoke, especially for children. Other US studies have shown that tobacco smoke can reach higher concentrations inside cars than inside homes. Children have smaller airways and breathe faster than adults, so they breathe in more harmful chemicals than an adult would in the same amount of time.

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