Health Legislation Amendment and Repeal Bill 2019 | Second Reading

Ms SULEYMAN (St Albans) (14:54:18): I too rise today to speak and contribute on the Health Legislation Amendment and Repeal Bill 2019. I too, like the member for Yan Yean, am a surprise contributor on this bill. It is a bill that is very important. I speak in particular as someone who is a former VicHealth board member— Ms Green interjected. Ms SULEYMAN: Yes, of course, as was the member for Yan Yean. We see the great work that VicHealth has done in this space and its remarkable campaign that has stretched for a very, very long period of time. At the start of the campaign it was the norm to smoke. Smoking was seen as a very normal thing to do in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. I must say that I too was once a smoker. It was a very long time ago, and on reflection I think to myself, ‘How could I possibly have been a smoker for over 10 years?’. But I certainly was. Unfortunately I woke up one day with a number of very serious health issues that made me quit my not only bad but also dangerous habit, and I have not looked back since then. Victoria has been a leader, in my view, when it comes to tobacco control, in particular restricting the advertising of tobacco and e-cigarette products. We have recently seen globally some shocking stories in relation to e-cigarettes and some of the health issues that they are causing around the world, in particular in the United States. I think there is more to that space, and I am sure we will be hearing much more about the harmful effects from smoking not only cigarettes but e-cigarettes as well. I am very happy to see that today we are putting a stop to the loophole in relation to advertising at the grand prix. We should not be advertising tobacco. It is bad, and it is dangerous—we know that. VicHealth and the Quit campaign have done a very successful job in leading this space but more importantly getting Victorians back onto a healthy and productive path. As the member for Yan Yean said, there were times when smoking was in front of children, in front of babies, at community centres and at public events. There was the freedom to smoke. Unfortunately those harmful effects appear later on. We would now never envisage smoking in front of a child or a baby or in front of anybody. That is why we have seen Victoria enact the first legislation to ban outdoor tobacco advertising on billboards and in particular at sporting events, because sporting events are a space that at times does encourage smoking and of course alcohol consumption. I think it is really important to continue the great campaigns and educational programs that VicHealth and other agencies have run in this space to continue to reduce smoking and place people on the healthy paths that need to be taken. Of course this bill also prohibits tobacco advertisements in public places. Through the amendments in this bill it will ban the advertising of e-cigarette products in the same way as it does for tobacco products. So I am really happy to see that that is now on the same line as tobacco products. In addition to advertising bans, we will also see at both state and national level a reduction of the harmful impact of smoking. Australia was the first country to introduce plain packaging laws. I know that the minister back then, Nicola Roxon, faced a very strong campaign from the tobacco companies but she persisted, and today we have plain packaging in Australia, which is leading the world when it comes to this space. Of course we understand the impact that smoking has on the community, including our family members. Everybody is affected. A Cancer Council Victoria survey has shown that rates of smoking dropped from 13.5 per cent in 2015 to 10.7 per cent in 2018, so we know that with proper education and proper programs, people are reducing their smoking. Rates of smoking are dropping, and that is what we want to see. We all have a friend or family member that has been touched by cancer. We know that there are 700 000 smokers in Victoria, and for some of these people it will lead to some form of preventable chronic disease which will lead to death. Of course there are over 4000 lives lost to smoking each year in Victoria, so we still have a lot of education to do in this space so that we can reduce the number of smokers in Victoria. Smoking costs the Victorian economy $3.8 billion just in health care and about $5.8 billion in intangible costs associated with the loss of a life. But to a family there is no dollar value that can be placed on the loss of a life, so I encourage those who do smoke to connect with either Quit or their local GP so that they can actually start to quit—because the sooner you begin the process the better off you will be. Smoking is linked to a higher disease burden, and I know in Brimbank we have higher rates of cancer, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and much, much more. Of course as a parent if you are smoking, the harm that you do to your children and to the community is also part of this process. We also now know, as I said previously, some of the stories in relation to the health concerns associated with e-cigarettes and vaping. I do believe that there will be many more stories that we will hear about the detrimental health issues related to e-cigarettes. We do know there is growing evidence when it comes to the health harms and the increased risk of smoking. Today this house continues to not only improve but also safeguard the health of the community. When it comes to smoking and in particular advertising in public places, including at the grand prix, I believe it does not have the space to be in the community. Smoking is such a deadly, deadly practice and causes so much harm to our community. I am so happy that our government is continuing to look at the health-related concerns but also at improving the health amenities of our community. This is yet just another step in that direction. On that note, I too commend the bill. I also commend the minister for putting forward this bill, and I commend the bill to the house.