Monday, 17 September 2018
Tobacco Plain Packaging Amendment Bill 2018; Second Reading
I rise this evening to make a contribution to the debate on the Tobacco Plain Packaging Amendment Bill 2018. Worldwide, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and kills at least five million people every year. In Australia, smoking still kills between 15,000 and 20,000 people each year. The economic and social cost of smoking is estimated at $31.5 billion a year. By any measure, and despite all of the progress we have achieved over many decades, it remains a massive health issue. It's an issue that requires political leadership and eternal vigilance.
Labor has shown consistent leadership on this issue, even when it's been politically difficult. We've stood up to big tobacco, despite their formidable resources and significant campaign abilities. Despite their willingness to use dirty tricks and to take legal action, we took them on. It was Labor that introduced and fought for the world-leading plain packaging legislation that, along with other policies, has helped to drive smoking rates to record lows. I well recall former minister Nicola Roxon and her battle to achieve that outcome, and what a mountain it was to climb. She showed that incredible leadership that is so common amongst the women in the Labor Party who make such a contribution to public policy in this country.
The legislation before us today makes some minor technical changes to Labor's laws, and we will, of course, support it. Put simply, the amendments expand the range of people who can be authorised to undertake plain-packaging compliance activities. You will find no objections from us with regard to that. But we know that, deep down, many on the other side would actually like to tear up Labor's legislation altogether. On this, as on so many things, they're hopelessly divided. Despite the clear evidence that our legislation has worked and has clearly saved lives, many on the other side still think that this is a 'nanny state' policy. It shows that they do not understand public health policy or evidence based policy. But, as we know, this is what the Liberals and the Nationals so often do; they put big business before the wellbeing of the Australian people.
Thanks in part to Labor's groundbreaking policy work, the prevalence of daily smoking in Australia is now at just 12 per cent and continuing to decline. I know for a fact that for Australians like me and senators on the other side of the chamber, as we travel around the world, it's quite shocking sometimes to enter into other contexts and see the amount of public smoke consumption by comparison to what we have become accustomed to, with that remarkable reduction to 12 per cent. Happily, that figure is continuing to decline.
It has to be said, however, that we have hit a point where that decline has slowed. That's because, for the last five years, we've not had a government that actually cares about tobacco control. It has zero credibility on this issue. For five years it has been missing in action. As Professor Mike Daube, of Curtin University, recently wrote:
We should have reinforced and capitalised on the early impact of plain packaging and reinforced the impacts of tax increases … but action over the past 6 years has stalled, at a time when it should have accelerated.
… … …
First, crucially and inexplicably, there have been no national media campaigns since 2012. The federal government gets more than $11 billion a year in revenue from tobacco taxes. Spending $40 million on media campaigns would be less than 0.4% of this.
For its entire time in office, this government has not bothered to launch any antitobacco campaigns, even though it knows, and evidence proves, that they are highly effective. From our point of view, we consider this to be a shameful dereliction of duty. We need more major, hard-hitting media campaigns, which we know is one of the most effective weapons in our arsenal.
Professor Daube goes on to point out that, over the last five years, there has been a complete absence of new evidence-based measures to tackle smoking—nothing at all on the watch of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government, despite the fact that we continue to see 15,000 to 20,000 people die each year from smoking-related illness. Professor Daube also talks about the fact that there have been no curbs on tobacco industry efforts to influence public policy. He mentions the twin evils of lobbying and political donations from the big tobacco industry. It has now been 14 years since Labor announced we would no longer take political donations from big tobacco. It took nearly 10 years for the Liberals to match us on that, but, shamefully, the Nationals still haven't done the right thing. They still receive donations from big tobacco. Scott Morrison must explain why he thinks it's okay that his coalition partner fills its coffers with money from companies that profit from putting Australians in coffins. The Liberals should restore Australia's global leadership on this issue, and, if they don't, Labor certainly will.
Plain packaging of cigarettes has been seen as one part of the manifold strategy in deterring people from smoking, a practice that clearly leads to exceptionally bad health outcomes and, indeed, death. Therefore, anything that is capable of reducing the smoking levels within our nation ought to be considered. I confess that I for one remain to be fully convinced as to the efficacy of plain labelling, but I am willing to agree to the Tobacco Plain Packaging Amendment Bill 2018, which is designed to enforce the law with regard to the plain packaging strategy.
This bill will, as the explanatory memorandum outlines, provide greater flexibility for enforcement, with more people in authority empowered to help enforce the law. The bill will enable the government to respond more flexibly to noncompliance with the tobacco plain packaging legislation. The bill will provide the Department of Health with access to a wider pool of officers eligible for appointment as authorised officers, providing greater flexibility to respond to any organisational or administrative changes which may occur in the future. Importantly, the bill does not change the plain packaging requirements and will not impact the obligations of tobacco manufacturers, distributors or retailers.
In fighting the scourge of cigarettes, I encourage the government and all law enforcement bodies to take a considered approach. Regrettably, despite all the approaches that we have taken within the community, the rate of smoking in Australia is in fact still increasing. This is despite the ever-increasing taxation burden, the ongoing education programs and the banning of the plain packaging labelling.
In relation to taxation, I make the observation that I believe we are getting to a stage—if the threshold has not already been reached—whereby the ever-increasing taxation has now allowed tobacco to be able to be used as a profitable subject for the black market. As the price increases, so the smuggling of the tobacco increases and becomes more profitable. We have seen, from our neighbourhood within this region, the ever-increasing importation of illegal tobacco products, and, indeed, the growing of illegal tobacco in Australia, which is often referred to as 'chop-chop'. I believe not only does it place an unfair burden often on people who can least afford it but it does lend itself to a black market, which, in turn, assists criminal gangs, money laundering and things of that nature. I would invite the government, in considering its strategy in relation to lowering the rates of smoking, to give due consideration to the perverse effect the ever-increasing tax regime actually has on the marketing of tobacco products in the black market.
I would encourage all authorities to work together, and can I express my concern and disappointment that the ACCC did not support the tobacco companies in their bid to work with law enforcement agencies to try to expose and ban the selling of illegal tobacco products through various outlets. The suggestion that these tobacco companies would 'be colluding' seems to me a bizarre suggestion and outcome by the ACCC, which, as I understand it, was largely informed by the medical authorities who took this view that any tobacco is bad, therefore tobacco companies are bad, whereas I have proffered the view that sometimes the enemy of my enemy can in fact be my friend. In these circumstances, I would encourage the authorities to actually work with the tobacco companies to help stamp out the sale of illegal tobacco. That's because, make no mistake, as the regular price of tobacco increases, courtesy of the ever-increasing taxation regime, the profits from the black market similarly increase.
Given that this bill is part of the strategy to reduce smoking and its terrible cost to individuals and the health budget, I want to take this opportunity to encourage the government to give more consideration to the legalisation of vaping or e-cigarettes. I understand that, as part of this proposal, the state governments would have to come on board, as they control the poisons schedules, and nicotine is listed, quite rightly, as a poison. As a nonsmoker, I dare not presume as to why people smoke, but people allegedly enjoy smoking for the nicotine hit, beside the mistaken belief of a perceived sophistication or social acceptance. No matter what one's reason, the inhaling of tobacco smoke is detrimental because of the tars, additives and smoke, besides the nicotine, which is inhaled. Health advice suggests that the nicotine, which provides the double-edged hit and craving, is in fact the least injurious aspect of smoking.
Into this space comes the innovative idea of e-cigarettes, or vaping, which allows people to satisfy their nicotine craving without the tar, without the additives and without the smoke—surely a good thing, yet it remains illegal to sell these products. E-cigarettes are cigarette-shaped electronic mechanisms that allow the inhaling of nicotine through metered doses. Given we don't live in a perfect world, which would see neither smoking nor vaping, it makes good sense to seek to wean smokers onto vaping. Many smokers tell me they would switch if given the opportunity. Many have, in fact, told me that they engage in it illegally, it would seem, with much praise for the benefits, including better health outcomes.
It's a bit like refusing to legislate low-alcohol beer because we don't like the impact of alcohol in society. Most of us accept that, no matter what your view on alcohol, low-alcohol beer is preferable to full strength. So it is and should be with e-cigarettes. Research tells us that those who have switched to vaping have their nicotine craving satisfied whilst reporting improvements in their general health. The European research in particular bears this out. Suggestions that vaping is injurious to health, of course, is not questioned, but, as a substitute for smoking, it is preferable, which is something recognised in many other countries. Most health experts analysing e-cigarettes are of the view that they are 95 per cent less harmful than inhaling tobacco smoke. UK officials believe the e-cigarette has assisted thousands of people to quit the smoking habit altogether.
Reluctance to introduce another smoking type product to the market is understood, but such reluctance needs assess whether the new product is as bad or worse than the current product. Fear that e-cigarettes may encourage young people to smoke has not been borne out by the European experiences, which suggest it is not 'cool', if I can use that term, to smoke them and serves as a reminder to young people of the difficulty of giving up the habit. If so, it would be wise to restrict it, but, when the product is so overwhelmingly better, it is difficult to understand the current rationale. This issue is worthy of pursuit to assist the health of the individual—indeed, the health budget, the individual private good and social public good wrapped into one. It is my view that the time for legalising e-cigarettes, or vaping, has come. In making this contribution, I commend the bill to the Senate.
I also rise to contribute to the Tobacco Plain Packaging Amendment Bill 2018. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable and premature death and disability in Australia and contributes to and compounds existing health and social inequalities. Tobacco use is the only risk factor shared by all four main categories of non-communicable disease—namely, cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. The most recently available estimate showed that the social and economic cost of smoking, including health costs, in Australia was $31.5 billion in 2004-05. I imagine that, since then, that cost has only increased. In 2001, tobacco use killed almost 19,000 people in Australia and was responsible for nine per cent of the total burden of disease and injury, making it the most burdensome risk factor.
On 1 June 2007, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released the National Drug Strategy household survey 2016 key findings which showed that the decline in smoking prevalence rates among daily smokers aged 14 years and over in Australia slowed in 2016, only declining slightly from 12.8 per cent in 2013 to 12.2 per cent, which is not in itself statistically significant. In 2016, those living in remote or very remote areas were approximately twice as likely to report being daily smokers compared to those living in major cities. Daily smoking rates among those living in regional areas were also 40 per cent to 70 per cent higher compared to those living in major cities over the same period. The 2014-15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey shows that in 2014-15 the proportion of Indigenous people aged 15 years and over who were daily smokers was 38.9 per cent, which is down from 44.6 per cent in 2008 and 48.6 per cent in 2002. The AIHW report, Burden of cancer in Australia: Australian burden of disease study 2011, shows that tobacco was the largest risk factor that contributed to the burden of cancer. Tobacco contributed to 11 different types of cancer and was responsible for almost twice as many cancer disability adjusted life years in males than females. Almost one quarter, 22 per cent, of the total cancer burden can be attributed to tobacco use. In 2016, it was estimated that lung cancer would be the leading cause of cancer death in both females and males: 3,720 females and 5,120 males.
It's pretty clear from those statistics that smoking prevalence in Australia is not a good thing and reasonable measures to assist in the reduction of the prevalence of smoking in Australia is a good thing. Over the past several decades the Australian government has implemented a broad range of tobacco control measures, including: excise increases on tobacco—and I acknowledge the contribution of Senator Abetz about some of the consequences of doing so; education programs and campaigns; plain packaging of tobacco products; labelling of tobacco products with updated and larger graphic health warnings; prohibiting tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and providing support for smokers to quit. It is claimed and believed by many that this multifaceted approach to tobacco control and the collaboration between the Commonwealth, the states and territories and non-government organisations has been instrumental in achieving the decline in smoking that has been recorded.
One perverse consequence of tobacco control, is, of course that it increases the likelihood that those who are addicted to tobacco—and Senator Cameron noted that that is what nicotine does; it does actually create a very strong addiction—will look to alternative, illegal methods of obtaining their nicotine. So, one of the things that the government is doing is also improving its ability to deal with illicit tobacco sales. The Department of Health has policy responsibility for illicit tobacco in relation to its work under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, its work on the development of the National Tobacco Strategy and, broadly, its work to reduce smoking prevalence rates.
Although the department takes a significant interest in illicit tobacco and the market drivers that influence illicit trade, it does so from a health perspective, ensuring that consumers are provided with a full suite of government strategies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption rates in Australia. The department is proactively engaging with other agencies on the issue of illicit tobacco to increase cooperation and collaboration. It is concerned about the illicit trade in tobacco products, because it impacts directly on the effectiveness of price based public health policies, and smokers accessing illicit products may not benefit from other public health measures, including tobacco plain packaging and graphic warnings. In the end, balance is needed between measures that incentivise people to use illicit tobacco and control measures, which lead to a decrease in smoking in some, but lead others to look for their tobacco hit elsewhere.
Turning now to the specifics of this bill, as mentioned, tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable and premature death and disability in Australia, which is why the government is committed to reducing the number of smokers. Australia is a world leader in tobacco control, and tobacco plain packaging is an important element of Australia's tobacco control measures. This measure was introduced under the last government—a measure I had real reservations about and, if truth be told, still do. Those reservations stem from my belief that so long as a product is legal to be sold, governments should be cautious about how they interfere with the rights of producers of those products, including how they deal with the rights associated with trademarks and their rights to market their legal trademarks to those who would choose to purchase them. Of course tobacco, although legal, is different from many other products because it is clearly a product whose use is highly detrimental to the health of its users and which is highly addictive once use has started, and also because the negative health consequences of its use have a broader impact than just on the smokers and their families, with the cost to the taxpayer that flows from smoking-related health treatment and other issues, as noted, estimated to be in the many billions.
As such, there is clearly the broader policy issue of the impact it has on taxpayer funded resources, and not just on an individual's right to choose whether to smoke and to personally accept the consequences. The question for me was whether the specific nature of smoking and the public resource consequence outweighed the principle that private property rights should not be infringed by government without compensation. There is no doubt government should do all that it can and that is right to reduce smoking rates, as achieving that outcome is an undeniable public good. A government, in my view, should also be a fierce guarantor and protector of property rights and individual freedoms. In this case, it seemed to me these two desirable public aims, at least to some extent, came into conflict.
In the end, I remained troubled. But, nonetheless, plain packaging was legislated and is now the law. Although there is some conflicting interpretation of the statistics since, it does appear that the incidence of smoking in Australia has fallen, an unarguably good thing on all fronts and something which is absolutely required, as a result of the legislation, in order to justify the imposition of the burden the law placed on affected entities. The role plain packaging played in that fall in smoking incidence is also hard to calculate. Let's hope it is a significant factor and, on that basis, look forward. This bill is intended to ensure the plain packaging law works as well as possible.
Under the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011, plain packaging compliance and enforcement activities are undertaken by authorised officers. Authorised officers must be persons appointed or engaged under the Public Service Act 1999 or a member or special member of the Australian Federal Police. A person is appointed as an authorised officer in writing by the Secretary to the Department of Health. The bill proposes to expand the range of persons who can be appointed as authorised officers. The bill will allow the secretary to appoint as authorised officers, Commonwealth officers not appointed or engaged under the Public Service Act 1999, state and territory police officers and state and territory officers and local government officials with responsibilities in relation to health matters or tobacco control compliance and enforcement.
The bill will enable the government to respond more flexibly to noncompliance with the tobacco plain packaging legislation. It will provide the Department of Health with access to a wider pool of officers eligible for appointment as authorised officers, providing greater flexibility to respond to any organisational or administrative changes which may occur in the future. This will also provide more opportunities for authorised officers to cooperate and respond to potential noncompliance. Importantly, the bill does not change the plain packaging requirements, do not make them any more stringent and will not impact the obligations of tobacco manufacturers, distributors or retailers.
Consultation with each relevant state and territory agency has been undertaken. This is important as their officers will be impacted. At the conclusion of the consultation, no agencies opposed the amendment. Some state and territory agencies emphasised that their support was provided specifically on the basis that their officers would only be appointed as authorised officers where there is a formal agreement in place. Negotiations indicated that, for these agencies to be comfortable with the impact this bill would have on it passing, a clause needed to be included providing that the appointment would only be by agreement with the relevant state or territory.
So what is the purpose of the bill? As mentioned the Tobacco Plain Packaging Amendment Bill 2018 is primarily intended to allow for the ongoing appointment of National Measurement Institute officers as authorised officers. The National Measurement Institute, a division of the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, currently undertakes compliance and enforcement activities on behalf of the department under the act. The structure of the NMI may change in the future in such a way that NMI officers may no longer be engaged under the Public Service Act. Under the law as it stands, authorised officers must be persons appointed or engaged under the Public Service Act or a member or special member of the Australian Federal Police. In addition, the Secretary to the Department of Health must be satisfied that the person has suitable qualifications, training or experience. The inclusion of relevant state and territory health officers, state and territory police officers and local government officers is to provide future flexibility and increased cooperation to respond to noncompliance with the act should it be needed and agreed at some point down the track.
I've already mentioned the consultation with states and territories and given a summary of their approach to the proposed changes. Just what are the implications for state and territory health departments or local government? The proposed changes place no obligation on state and territory agencies or local government entities to be appointed as authorised officers unless and until there is a desire to enter into an arrangement and there is an agreement on the proposed arrangements and funding by the Commonwealth. The inclusion of relevant state and territory health officers, state and territory police officers and local government officers is to provide future flexibility and increased cooperation to respond to noncompliance with the act should it be needed and agreed. For example, relevant state or territory health officers may be able to be appointed, if agreed, to assist National Measurement Institute or departmental officers with inspections and enforcement activity as appropriate and to respond to localised areas of noncompliance. Accordingly, the proposed amendment provides a mechanism for greater collaboration and coordination on enforcement activities with the states, territories and local government bodies if needed and agreed in the future.
Who will the bill affect? As flagged earlier, one of the intentions of the bill is to ensure that NMI officers are still able to be appointed as authorised officers should the NMI undergo organisational changes. The bill, if passed, will allow the appointment of the following as an authorised officer under the act: a person appointed or engaged other than under the Public Service Act 1999 by the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth entity—within the meaning of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013; a person appointed or employed by a state or territory with responsibilities in relation to health matters or compliance and enforcement in tobacco control matters; state and territory police officers; and local government officials with responsibilities in relation to health matters or compliance and enforcement in tobacco control matters. State and territory police officers and local government officers will only be appointed with the agreement of the relevant state and territory.
I have already touched on the consultation undertaken in the preparation of this bill. Initial consultation was undertaken with jurisdictional representatives on the National Expert Reference Group on Tobacco. Follow-up consultation with each state and territory, health department, police force and local government representative body occurred from October 2017 to March 2018. In New South Wales comment was sought from the New South Wales Department of Premier and Cabinet as requested by New South Wales Health. The National Measurement Institute was, of course, also consulted. As mentioned, some agencies initially expressed concern in relation to the potential for their officers to be appointed as authorised officers, either because their view was it did not fall within their remit or due to resourcing concerns. After further discussion, these agencies were able to support the amendment on the basis that any appointment of authorised officers would be after a formal agreement had been made. The bill reflects an requirement for an agreement to be in place.
Finally, what are the financial impacts of the amendment? The amendment will not result in any further financial impact on the Commonwealth above the current costs associated with tobacco plain packaging compliance and enforcement activities undertaken by the Department of Health. As such, the measure is designed as one to better ensure that the law, if enacted, can be properly enforced. As discussed, despite the issues I see relating to the plain packaging legislation itself, this bill is a measure that is clearly one aimed at improving health outcomes for Australians and should be supported.
I rise this evening also to speak on the Tobacco Plain Packaging Amendment Bill 2018. When the plain packaging bill was first introduced in 2011, I will admit to you now, I hated it. I think it was the inner libertarian in me that was so fervently opposed to this particular restriction. I really wasn't confident that prima facie, at least, just changing the colour of a cigarette packet was the most effective way to deter people from smoking. However, the jury is in, and it works. Tobacco remains a leading cause of preventable deaths and disability in Australia, and smoking is estimated to kill almost 19,000 Australians every year, with a total annual cost to the nation of $31.5 billion. This government remains committed to tobacco plain packaging as a legitimate public health measure that is consistent with Australia's international legal obligations. Such a measure has contributed to reducing smoking rates substantially over the past decade. And despite a noticeable slowing in the decline of smoking prevalence rates among daily smokers aged 14 and over, significant progress has been made among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which is very good to note. Ongoing tobacco interventions are critical to ensuring the prevalence of smoking in Australia continues to decline. So as part of their comprehensive and strategic approach to reducing the take-up and the continued use of tobacco products, plain packaging is just one very effective weapon in the arsenal. And Australia has built that arsenal up over a very long period of time.
You might remember, Acting Deputy President Leyonhelm, that before Australia adopted some of the strictest smoking regulations in the world, advertising of cigarettes was very big business, and ad agencies had long sought clients that had the biggest budgets. From the fifties right through to the seventies, the clients with the biggest budgets were selling tobacco. They set out and they succeeded in convincing Australians that smoking was suave, sexy and a sophisticated thing to do. You might remember that slim cigarettes were tailored for the feminine hand. Craven, you might recall, was 'the clean cigarette that's kind to your throat'. Benson & Hedges were available to you 'when only the best would do'.
But one campaign was so successful in Australia that it actually backfired and prompted the backlash that ultimately saw Australia ban tobacco advertising altogether. By the early 1970s there were already warning signs, you may recall, about the risks to consumers' health, but teenagers remained a very lucrative market, and one brand in particular resonated with that market: Winfield. A fellow named Allan Johnston was the new creative director of Sydney agency Hertz-Walpole, and he was asked to come up with an idea for Winfield, which was then owned by the tobacco company Rothmans. He said they came up with this crazy idea to put Paul Hogan in a dinner suit and to have him take the mickey out of other cigarette ads. On the day of the shoot, apparently, none of the regular advertising executives turned up because they were absolutely terrified this wasn't going to work; they thought it was going to be a disaster. Hoges turned up in his tuxedo and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra were playing in the background and they were brought in. In his most ocker drawl, Hogan began: 'G'day. I've been asked to talk to you and, being a suave and sophisticated man about town'—and then he went on.
Australians loved it, but particularly the kids loved it. After the first week on air, Rothmans' chairman, whose name was Sir Ronald Irish, ordered the 'uncouth bloke' be taken off air. But he was reminded that the company were now selling one million cigarettes a day in Australia. You will remember that, 'Anyhow, have a Winfield' became part of Australia's vernacular. It wasn't long after that that Winfield overtook Marlborough as Australia's No. 1 selling cigarette. The popularity of Paul Hogan and his Winfield ads amongst teenagers was a worrying development. Winfield became the preferred brand for teenagers, and Hogan's powerful resonance with this particular market saw kids take them up at a growing rate.
Health campaigners and public sentiment were getting more and more vocal, and the link between tobacco and lung disease could no longer be ignored. By the mid-1970s, there was an increase in pressure on government to act. I'll pay credit where it's due here: it was in fact the Whitlam government that pledged extra funds to state health departments, so that they could engage in the very medium that had propelled these tobacco products and tobacco companies into people's lives in the first place, and the antismoking television advertisements began. You might remember this one, Acting Deputy President: it started, 'The human lung is like a sponge—a sponge designed to soak up air, but some people use it to soak up smoke.' You will remember the lungs squeezed and the tar squeezed out of them. It was a very powerful advertising campaign. Tobacco advertising was officially banned on Australian radio and television in 1976, although it actually remained legal, you will recall, on billboards right up until 1993.
The industry commonly claims that its promotional activities were not intended to influence and have no impact on children. In contrast, however, numerous academic reviews have identified tobacco advertising as a key influence on youth, particularly those who initiate smoking. Youth exposed to tobacco advertising hold positive attitudes towards tobacco use. The industry argues that in the absence of causal proof that advertising directly induces children to smoke, there is insufficient evidence to justify banning tobacco advertising at all. However, research examining the impact of the UK's Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act on youth smoking found that the advertising ban actually reduced adolescent smoking intentions by signifying smoking to be less normative and socially unacceptable.
I hope that my children aren't working now, because I'm about to confess something to the chamber: I took up smoking when I was 16.
It's true. I know it's hard to believe. Butter wouldn't melt in my mouth now, but at the time, I tell you, I was a wild child. I took up smoking when I was 16. I vividly remember the influence of the brands and advertising. My first cigarette—I will never forget it—was a Sterling Smooth. It had a beautiful silver packet—remember those! It was shared with me by a girlfriend. I thought that she was super cool, and that was why I wanted to try it. The first one made me so sick. By the second one, I began to work out what I was doing. By the third one, that was it—I was hooked. I was an expert. I looked cool; I was a 16 year old and I looked super cool—I looked Sterling-Smooth cool! But then I realised as a teenager that, as cool I was, I was still desperate to be kissed and I really needed that minty freshness, so I switched to Alpine. I switched to menthols because they gave me that minty freshness.
Senator Molan interjecting—
'Fresh as Alpine'—I don't know whether you remember that, Senator Molan. But then I matured somewhat. That desire for the freshness remained, but I was a bit more mature, a bit more sophisticated, so I moved to St Moritz. That was the cool menthol brand. That was the menthol of choice for your mature young woman—except when I went to the Guns N' Roses concert in 1993, and then of course I reverted right back to the Winnie Blues in the shoulder, under the sleeve. Do you remember those? Guns N' Roses and Winnie Blues! When I settled into adulthood, there I was still smoking, still influenced by those brands, but I was a mature and far more professional person, so Benson & Hedges extra mild was my brand of choice. To tell you the truth, if I were going to pick up a cigarette this evening, it'd be Benson & Hedges extra mild all the way. So advertising does make a difference; I still remember those brands.
This bill aims to expand the categories of persons who can be appointed as authorised officers empowered to undertake plain packaging compliance activities under this act. Specifically, it will allow for more authorised individuals to enforce that plain packaging legislation to ensure that others aren't influenced the same way I was. Over the past several decades, the Australian government has implemented a broad range of tobacco control measures, including an excise increase on tobacco; education programs and campaigns such as the ones I spoke of earlier; plain packaging of tobacco products; labelling tobacco products with updated and larger graphic health warnings of horrible things like rotting teeth and gangrene; prohibiting tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and providing far more support for smokers to quit. This multifaceted approach to tobacco control and collaboration between the Commonwealth, the states and territories and the non-government organisations has been instrumental to achieving the decline in smoking that we have seen.
It is important to do because the effects of smoking are very clear. Despite that decline in smoking in Australia, we remain firmly committed to continuing the efforts of previous governments to support and build on Australia's great success in tobacco control. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable and premature death in Australia and both contributes to and compounds existing health and social inequalities.
In 2011, the Australian burden of disease study demonstrated that tobacco was the largest risk factor that contributed to the burden of cancer. Tobacco use is attributed to 11 different types of cancer. Almost ¼ of the total cancer burden is attributed to tobacco use. In 2011, tobacco use killed almost 19,000 people in Australia and was responsible for nine per cent of the total burden of disease and injury, making it the most burdensome risk factor. The 2014-15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey showed that the proportion of Indigenous people aged 15 and over who were daily smokers was just shy of 39 per cent. While this is significantly down from the 48.6 per cent who identified as daily smokers in 2002, it still remains an unacceptable statistic. In 2016, those living in remote or very remote communities were approximately twice as likely to report being daily smokers compared to those living in major cities. Daily smoking rates among those living in regional areas was also 40 to 70 per cent higher compared to those living in major cities over the same period. In fact, in 2016, it was estimated that lung cancer will be the leading cause of death for both females and males. It's for these reasons that it's crucial that the government continue its stance to minimise and, where it can, avoid preventable death and disability in Australia.
Quitting smoking, as we know, is one of the most positive actions that anyone can take for themselves and for their family's health. Tobacco smoking continues to be the leading because of preventable death and disability. In 2017 alone, there were 19,000 deaths—I think I've used that 19,000 three times now; it is a very important statistic.
The Morrison coalition government continues to sustain world-leading antismoking initiatives. We do not have a one-method approach; we embrace a suite of methods to minimise preventable illness in Australia as a result of smoking, and one of those methods is plain packaging. There are others: those health warnings and the numerous health marketing campaigns.
This particular amendment is an extension and a continuation of our good work in that health sector. It's important to note that the amendment that's before us tonight and the continuation of the plain-packaging laws under this government are not the only means of ensuring that we minimise and avoid preventable illness in Australia. They are only one part of the suite of products.
Health awareness and cognisance campaigns, such as the recent Don't Make Smokes Your Story campaign have contributed significantly to reducing the smoking rates over the last few years. Other coalition government awareness campaigns, which have been reported to be extremely successful, include the Quit For You, Quit For Two campaign. This campaign targeted pregnant women and those planning to have children and their partners. The campaign provided information about the health harms associated with smoking during pregnancy and the support available to women on their journey to quit smoking.
We don't stop here. The coalition government has been taking a far more targeted approach, continuing our commitment to minimise preventable illness in Australia. Advertisements were developed for culturally and linguistically diverse communities and diverse audiences to ensure that that message is tailored for specific communities. Translated versions of health warnings were developed for Arabic; Chinese, both Mandarin and Cantonese; Korean; and Vietnamese audiences and specifically focused on smokers between the ages of 18 and 40 years.
In 2017, statistics for the number of daily smokers aged 18 and over was 14.7 per cent nationally. This was a decrease from 16.3 per cent in 2007 and 22.3 per cent in 2001. It's an illustration that our health measures are working. On 6 May 2018, the government announced new budget measures to tackle the illicit tobacco trade. The government has introduced a comprehensive new framework to provide the Australian Border Force and the Australian Taxation Office, the ATO, with strengthened enforcement measures and additional resources to deter those who profit from illicit tobacco. The excise increases announced in the 2015-16 budget were firmly based on the evidence that they too will help further reduce smoking.
The panel report concerning Australia's tobacco plain-packaging measure was published on 28 June this year, and all substantive findings were in favour of this program in Australia. The department has reviewed its enforcement policy for undertaking compliance and enforcement activities under the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 and released that update in May this year.
The findings from a new Australian study found that major health and productivity gains could be achieved from further tobacco control measures in Australia. The study, in fact, predicted that smoking was estimated to result in an excess of 400,000 deaths among Australians currently between the ages of 20 and 69, who are followed up to the age of 70. This equated to a loss of more than three million years of life over the productive working age of current Australian smokers and $388 billion lost in GDP.
Ongoing tobacco interventions are critical to ensuring that the prevalence of smoking in Australia continues to decline. Evidence from Australia and from overseas shows that when tobacco control efforts stall, so does the decline in smoking prevalence. It is incorrect to assume that the rate of reduction of smoking prevalence can be maintained without consistent and additional tobacco control efforts.
For much of today and last week, we debated the black economy. The black economy is certainly not absent from a discussion about tobacco. The Department of Health has policy responsibility for illicit tobacco in relation to its work under the World Health Organization framework, the development of the National Tobacco Strategy and broadly in its work to reduce smoking prevalence rates. The department has recognised issues that extend beyond health and is proactively engaging with other agencies on this issue of illicit tobacco to increase cooperation and collaboration. The department is also concerned about the illicit trade in tobacco products because it impacts directly on the effectiveness of price-based public health policies aimed at decreasing smoking rates. And smokers accessing illicit products may not benefit from other public health measures, including such things as tobacco plain packaging and those graphic health warnings.
As I detailed earlier, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death. Australia is a world leader in this particular field, and tobacco plain packaging is an important element of our control measures. Under the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011, plain packaging compliance and enforcement activities are undertaken by 'authorised officers'. Authorised officers must be persons appointed or engaged under the Public Service Act 1999, or a member or special member of the Australian Federal Police. A person appointed as an authorised officer is appointed in writing by the secretary of the Department of Health. This bill aims to expand the range of persons that can be appointed as officers. It will allow the secretary to appoint Commonwealth officers not appointed or engaged under the Public Service Act 1999, state and territory police officers, and state and territory officers and local government officials with responsibilities in relation to health matters or tobacco control, compliance and enforcement. It doesn't necessarily change the plain packaging requirements and won't impact the obligations of tobacco manufacturers, distributors or retailers.
As someone who was originally opposed to the plain packaging legislation, which passed before my time in the Senate, I can say that since my initial opposition I have become confident that regulation in this area has benefits and that there is in fact a case for it. I recommend this bill to the chamber.
I note at the outset that I won't be closing the debate on the Tobacco Plain Packaging Amendment Bill 2018. I suppose I should start with my personal confessions on smoking, not that there's much of a story. I'm one of those very lucky people who really haven't smoked all that much during their life. Although Senator Hume took us through a bit of a brand expose of her experiences with cigarettes, mine's limited to one packet. In 1973 I bought a packet of Escort 10s, which cost 27c. That's probably less than the excise on one cigarette these days! I'm still not sure that mum knows today that I bought that packet of smokes. I smoked four of those and I hated it, and I'm eternally grateful that that was my reaction to it. When I'd had a big night at the footy club, occasionally the boys would pass round a packet of cigarettes. If I took one, they would know that I'd an exceptional evening and a cheer would go up. Of course, during those years I consumed a lot of secondary smoke just through the atmosphere I was living in, but I count myself as someone who's very lucky not to have smoked, because we've heard through this debate already the statistics and the impacts of cigarette smoke.
In the couple of minutes before adjournment, I would like to address a couple of matters that were raised by the opposition, particularly by Senator O'Neill in her contribution. She talked about the fact that there had been no new campaigns. I remember when Prime Minister Rudd was in office, we were going to have a 'shock and awe' campaign against smoking. Well, we're still waiting for it. I never saw a shock and awe campaign coming from Labor. Yes, there were some anti-smoking ads, just as there are campaigns that are being run now. One current campaign, 'Don't make smokes your story', is targeting specific parts of the community. It's particularly targeting Torres Strait Islanders and Indigenous people. The 'Quit for you Quit for two' campaign is targeting pregnant women and their partners to stop smoking.
We're down to a small proportion of the community that are still smoking, and that's often when it's the hardest, when you get to that scale, to make those last few increments. We've seen the rate of reduction slowing over recent years. In fact, the latest figures I have seen show only a very small reduction, from 13.3 per cent to 12.8 per cent, so effectively it's static. It's very hard to start breaking down those last elements. The point I would make is that targeted campaigns and a range of measures are going to make the difference when you get down to those last few numbers, and it's important that the government continues to work in this space.