Cigarette Sales To Juveniles

About this Item
SpeakersMacdonald Dr Peter
BusinessPrivate Members Statements


Dr MACDONALD (Manly) [6.07]: Mr Speaker, I appreciate receiving the call, despite the fact that the Opposition Whip will not give the Independents a position on the private members' statements list of speakers. I raise an issue which relates to my electorate: the sale of cigarettes to juveniles. The health promotion people have identified a particular problem in this regard in the Manly electorate. In my electorate the smoking rate amongst secondary school students is approximately 40 per cent, which is above both the State and national averages. Research and testing was done on the sale of cigarettes to juveniles through local retailers. It was found that 85 per cent of retailers are breaking the law and selling cigarettes to under-age people. We must bear in mind that most smokers are recruited as children, not as adults.
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That is where we have to focus our attention.

The smoking rate for children has increased significantly - 70,000 children start to smoke each year. We know about the tobacco costs per year, something like $9.2 billion. It is the largest single cause of cancer and approximately one in four smokers die from their habit. A high level of cigarettes has been sold to juveniles in the electorate of Marrickville - the electorate of the Minister for Health. The incidence was similar to that in Manly: around 80 per cent. It highlights the need for better compliance monitoring. There are ways to reduce the sale of cigarettes to juveniles. I refer to the proof-of-age card, which is something the Minister has indicated he intends to introduce, as did the Opposition. There must be easier access to lists of licensees so that they can be properly monitored. On-the-spot fines need to be addressed soon because mounting prosecutions is difficult, lengthy and costly. We have to have proper resourcing of environmental health officers in view of the fact that the State Government derives enormous amounts of revenue from the sale of tobacco to juveniles.

There has been success elsewhere with respect to reducing the sale of tobacco to juveniles. Between 1988 and 1994 in Liverpool, England, the illegal sale of cigarettes to children decreased from 100 per cent to 3 per cent by enforcing the law effectively. Children were sent into shops to do some test purchases. Western Australia is showing us its heels - the 1990 Tobacco Control Act increased fines to $5,000 for each retailer. A survey in Perth in 1992 showed an 89 per cent rate of cigarette sales to children. A vigorous education campaign investigating reports of sales and procuring prosecutions has decreased that rate. To date the Western Australian Department of Health has prosecuted 17 retailers. That survey was repeated in 1994. The sale of cigarettes to juveniles had decreased to 28 per cent. In Manly, following education and warnings, a second survey found that the incidence decreased from 85 per cent to 55 per cent. I put it to the House that a 55 per cent rate of sales to juveniles is not acceptable.

The law is adequate but enforcement is not being pursued. The solution lies in setting clear annual targets of juvenile sale rates which can be progressively reduced year by year. My plea is for the Minister for Health to implement such a strategy. In November 1993 the United States Department of Health introduced a regulation program known as SYNAR regulations, which insisted that the States get the incidence down to 50 per cent. It then set thresholds to drop to 20 per cent or less. Each year an incremental reduction was set. I call on the Minister for Health to implement a strategy such as that in each of our area health regions. We have to become outcome orientated. The chief executive officers in each of our health regions should be responsible for performing and meeting set targets with respect to reducing the sale of cigarettes to juveniles each year. The incidence of sales in my electorate has decreased to 55 per cent. I want targets set in the Northern Sydney Area Health Service, for which the chief executive officer is accountable, which reduce year by year. How they do it is up to them.

Mr SCULLY (Smithfield - Minister for Small Business and Regional Development, Minister for Ports, Assistant Minister for Energy, and Assistant Minister for State Development) [6.15]: This issue is important to the Government. I understand that it is a matter of some concern to the honourable member for Manly. It is a matter of personal concern to me, being one who is particularly conscious about the impact smoking has on children. As a backbencher I had some role in this regard. It is a matter that I will convey to the Deputy Premier, Minister for Health, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I am concerned about the use of entrapment - using young children to entrap retailers. I think there should be emphasis on compliance monitoring. The matter is worthy of further consideration by the Government.

Private members' statements noted.