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Evidence Based Solution Needed for Reducing Smoking Rates

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Tags: Health, Preventative Health, Legislative Council, Tobacco

Ms WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I rise to make some additional comments in relation to the questions and answers in the scrutiny of the Health Estimates section of the Budget last week.  I did not get a chance to make these comments to the minister earlier.  I want to place on the record how concerned I am about the comments he made to me in relation to this Government's action on smoking.  We know smoking tobacco is the largest cause of preventable death and disease in Australia and it has an incredibly major impact on the health system.  We also know this state has had some very good successes in reducing the rate of smoking and reducing the cost to the community and the personal cost of people's lives -

Madam SPEAKER - Can I remind the member you are anticipating an order of the day.  We still have not passed the Budget.  The fact that you ran out of time is largely irrelevant as to whether or not you can bring it on in the adjournment.  I will allow latitude on this occasion as long as you try to keep your comments about matters that are of concern to health generally perhaps.  However, the member should know the standing order by now in relation to reflecting upon a debate and anticipating orders of the day.

Ms WOODRUFF - Thank you, Madam Speaker, for that latitude.  I did understand the health section had been halved so I will restrain my comments.

Madam SPEAKER - We have reported progress; we have not passed the bill.

Ms WOODRUFF - I will constrain my comments to the general comments that have been made by the smoking sector of the health community now for many years, particularly in relation to the action of this Government on doing something systematic and structural to reduce the rate of smoking.  If this Government is serious about reducing the concerning trend we are seeing in the youngest people in the community of increasing rates of smoking, then we need to take action and we need to do it immediately.

The minister has talked about the preventive health strategy being released at some point in the middle of this year.  I and everyone else in the community health sector would urge him to make sure when a document like that is released that it has action, targets and funding allocated.  If it does not, it is a whole lot of time and energy that people have spent over the years, particularly following the preventative health committee that was a subcommittee of this House that is really thinking hard about what we can do in this state to improve health.

The Government has not made a commitment to continue the state funding towards tobacco advertising, which is so critical.  It has a number attached to it and it is called a TARP and the TARPs are the target audience rating points.  That is a specific number, which has been, evidence-based Australia-wide.  We need to have 700 TARPs in order to have any affect.  Under that, all of the work we do in tobacco education is pointless.  There is a certain level we have to achieve.  It is a saturation point and it is very disappointing to hear the minister is not going to continue that funding.

That raises the question of what is this Government going to do on smoking?  There is the spectre of introducing legislation and I can say the Greens support any legislation, or any evidence based health measure that will bring down the rates of smoking in this community.

I also want to draw attention to the fact we have legislation which is supported across all of the health professionals in Tasmania and much more widely.  We have that sitting here in the upper House - the tobacco-free generation.  That is legislation which looks to be doing exactly that.  It is looking at seriously using an evidence base supported by the health community considering legislation that will bring down the rates of smoking. 

I urge the minister to make sure he does not prevaricate on this on this any longer because every day that goes by is another day of inaction where people take up smoking.  When they take it up at a young age, they take it up for life without a great deal of effort and a great deal of physical damage for them to change their behaviour.