The legislation, which the Government introduced in Parliament late last night, will severely restrict and in some cases ban the promotion of tobacco, restrict cigarette vending machines to licensed premises, and set up a health foundation to run sporting sponsorship.
The Premier, Mr. Cain said the measures aimed to “try undo the damage” of smoking and to counter the seductive effect on the young of cigarette advertising.
The Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria welcomes the changes, which are largely in line with its recommendation to Cabinet, but tobacco industry representatives described the bill as one of the most dangerous and intrusive attempts at social engineering in Australia.
Introducing the bill last night on behalf of the Government, the Minister for Transport, Mr. Roper, said the tobacco industry would be expected to strictly avoid “recruitment of young smokers” through the permitted avenues of advertising remaining after the legislation came into force.
“Tobacco is a serious health problem which has been irresponsibly promoted for too long,” he said. “There is no other product that is as great a health risk and no industry which has behaved so irresponsibly.”
Mr. Roper noted that the food industry and the motor industry had both withdrawn dangerous products from the market in the past week, at considerable cost to themselves.
The legislation restricts tobacco advertising to newspapers and magazine and to point-of-sale. Cinema advertisements, competitions and leaflets are banned. Billboard advertising will be prohibited from 1 January 1989.
Spot fines of $100 are to be introduced for the sale of cigarettes to minors and from 1 July cigarettes will have to be sold in minimum packs of 20. All smokeless tobacco products except nasal snuff will be prohibited.
In a serious blow to the pro-smoking lobby, tobacco companies are to be banned from sponsoring any sporting or cultural events that involve the promotion of a tobacco product or company. Events of national and international significance, however, are to be assessed individually, with preference given to alternative sponsors.
The Government will be able to buy out most tobacco company sponsorships with the establishment of the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, to be funded by a one-fifth increase in the state tobacco franchise – from 25 per cent to 30 per cent on the wholesale price of tobacco.
This is expected to generate $23 million, to provide grants for research and health promotion programs and to sponsor sport and the arts, including groups which have not had tobacco sponsorship.
Mr. Cain said the foundation would try to counter cigarette advertising’s effect on young people by promoting a healthy lifestyle. “There is a social obligation, a moral obligation on a government… to do something about it.” Mr. Cain said 80 per cent of adult smokers took up the habit before they were 16, and on present trends 64,000 Victorian children would die prematurely of smoking-related diseases.
The health promotion foundation is unique to Victoria. Other governments around the world have moved to ban tobacco advertising but none has used franchises to fund event previously sponsored by tobacco companies.
The Health Minister, Mr. White, said the changes were aimed at reducing the association of smoking with social success, wealth, sex and sporting prowess. “I believe that most forms of sport would be seeking to move away from their association with the tobacco industry, and many sports would be looking for an association with our health promotion foundation.
“The tobacco industry’s effort of self-regulation has failed. The Government has no alternative but to take the steps announced.”
The legislation has received widespread support from the anti-smoking lobby. The director of the Anti-Cancer Council, Dr. Nigel Gray, said the legislation put Victoria in the forefront of the international fight against smoking.
The State Opposition said it would treat the proposal to restrict tobacco advertising on its merits. The Liberals’ health spokesman, Mr. Birrell, said: “It is important that there be wide community debate on this significant proposed reform.”
Mr. Steve Woodward, executive director of the national anti-smoking lobby organization Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), described the legislation as a “proper and just commitment” by the Government to protect the health of its citizens.
The director of corporate services at Philip Morris, Mr. John Dollisson, said the legislation would be discriminatory, penalizing Victoria’s small businesses, smaller sporting bodies, and the million Victorians who chose to smoke.
The Tobacco Institute of Australia warned that the legislation had put Victoria on the same path as the Soviet Union, Hungary, Rumania and East Germany, which had all banned cigarette advertising.