Wednesday 21 November 2007

Mr FINCH (Rosevears) -Mr President, the member for Rowallan is a hard act to follow but I am up to the challenge.  Being a 60-cigarette-a-day reformed smoker -

Mr Hall - How long ago - when you were about 18?

Mr FINCH - No.  I gave up at about 24 years of age, but I was caught smoking in West Hobart in the chook shed by Dad when I was two.  I was with my older brother who was teaching me how to smoke.  At two years of age I remember lighting newspapers and then getting a light from the newspaper, and I remember thinking through this process, with singed hair.  My idea was that the little orange tip on the end was to show you which end of the cigarette to light. 

Ms Thorp - Oh no.

Mr FINCH - Yes.  So then we would throw that one away and grab another.  It was not long after the war and I think there was still rationing going on with cigarettes at that stage so Dad was not real happy when he found that the two youngsters had ruined the cigarette supply.

Anyway, as I say, I went on and smoked.  We were such heavy smokers that I remember Mum and Dad had to let us smoke at home at 13 years of age.  I was 13 and my brother was 15.  That is how, I suppose, addicted and unstoppable we were at the smoking habit.  So you can imagine, by the time I moved into my teenage years I was really on 60 a day, and that nicotine addiction has to be the strongest addiction the world has ever seen.  It is really a tough one and, like you, the member for Rowallan, I went cold turkey giving up and it was an interesting challenge.  It is a very, very tough assignment, so I have a lot of sympathy for people with the smoking habit.  People who have not smoked I do not think realise how strong that compulsion is to just light up another cigarette.  People have my sympathy when they are trying to overcome that and I do give as much support as I can to smokers to try to get them to challenge the habit.

I have no quarrel with the part of this bill which would prohibit subjecting children in the confined space of a car to cigarette smoke.  That is not a problem.  Damage to an infant strapped in a safety seat by exposure to second-hand smoke is really quite obvious.  I just wonder about the problems for police in detecting an offence of smoking in a vehicle with a child present.  It is perhaps a little more difficult than picking someone without a seatbelt.  It is going to be a hard one to police.

Ms Ritchie - You would have seen people doing it, though.  You would have pulled up at traffic lights and looked next to you and seen someone puffing away with the windows up and kids in the back.

Mr FINCH - Yes.

Ms Forrest - You see them sitting in the supermarket car park doing it.

Mr FINCH - Just to digress, I followed a truck into town one day in Launceston and the truck driver had a broken arm, a cast on his arm and a cigarette in the arm with the cast and he was on a mobile phone at the same time.  It was hilarious.  I actually wrote to On the Spot in the Examiner and got published, and the chap has almost forgiven me.

Mr Hall - Did you get any publicity out of it?

Mr FINCH - I got publicity out of it.

Mrs Smith - So there's good and bad from it, isn't there?

Mr FINCH - Yes.  If that chap had caught up with me, it would have been bad publicity.

I suppose it is to be hoped that the existence of a law against smoking with children in a vehicle will help to educate people about the harmful effects of smoking in cars.

I have no problem with clause 5 of the bill, Mr President, because I have always felt that selling sweets masquerading as tobacco is a pretty stupid idea.  But I do have reservations about an amendment to section 72 of the Public Health Act to further reduce the display of cigarettes and tobacco products.  Getting it down from 4 square metres to 1 square metre I think is a good move but, like my colleagues, I have had strong arguments from the retail sector.

I think changes to laws involving smoking in Tasmania have worked so far because they have been incremental.  We have tackled it slowly.  We are dealing with people with an addiction to smoking, which is a tough assignment, an addiction to selling cigarettes and the money that comes with that, and an addiction to collecting taxes from cigarette smoking as well.  So there is a lot of addiction through different layers.

These incremental changes have been at a pace which has taken the public along.  I worry about trying to bring in amendments that have us go too far too fast, but I support the bill.