Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 20 October 2011) . . Page.. 4781 ..
It is well documented that there is no safe level of environmental tobacco smoke and that even the shortest exposure can have negative health consequences. Children are even more susceptible to tobacco smoke’s harmful effects due to their smaller lung capacity, body weight and undeveloped immune system. Research from New Zealand has shown that the air quality when smoking in the confined space of a car is similar to the smoky pub environments seen in the ACT prior to the 2006 ban on smoking in pubs and clubs. Research shows that even smoking in cars where the window is rolled all the way down is not enough to protect children. Even a child’s brief exposure to this environment can result in detrimental health effects, triggering long-term developmental and behavioural difficulties.
For the purposes of this bill, a child is defined as someone that is less than 16 years old. It is noted that this is different from the definition of a child used elsewhere in the ACT statute book. The government has proposed the age of 16 to be consistent with New South Wales. This could help assist in cross-border awareness and enforcement of the ban. The law has been structured so that those under the age of 16 cannot commit the offence. This reflects the government’s policy that it is not an offence to smoke underage. However, if a person over the age of 16 is smoking in the presence of a passenger younger than 16, the offence will apply.
The law will be enforced by ACT Policing. While smoking legislation is customarily enforced by the Office of Regulatory Services, there was concern over the safety of public officers stopping vehicles during alleged offences. Police enforcing this proposed law have the appropriate authority and training to safely stop vehicles on our roads. ACT Policing have agreed to the responsibility of enforcement and we thank them for that.
I am pleased to say that the ACT has one of the nation’s lowest smoking rates. At 16.3 per cent we are well below the national average of 18.9 per cent, but these figures are still high. These statistics are in part reflective of the territory’s progressive stance on smoke-free legislation and tobacco control, often unanimously supported in this place. Still, this legislation is necessary to help protect children from tobacco smoke in cars.
The passage of the bill today will create a strong and effective measure to protect children from the dangers of passive smoking. Members have already indicated their support for this legislation during a 2009 consultation process where three out of four people supported a prohibition on smoking in cars with children. I was pleased to launch the community education campaign in August. With the passage of this bill the Health Directorate will continue the campaign to inform the ACT community about this law and the health implications tobacco smoke poses, particularly its effect on children.
The campaign tagline of “smoke with kids in the car and cough up a fine”, and an iconic smoking red car, has already been successfully used by South Australia and Tasmania in implementing their own ban. This campaign and tagline has been adopted by the Health Directorate to help convey the important health message to not smoke in cars with children present. The campaign will be targeted at parents and those who regularly drive young passengers on the road. Material will be placed