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Smoke-free Environments Bill - Sue Kedgley Speech

Smoke-free Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill Supplementary Order Paper No 148

12 October 2001

Sue Kedgley, Green Party MP

This is an extremely important piece of legislation which deals with an issue that evokes strong emotions and strong and polarised views amongst New Zealanders.

The issue involves two fundamental and conflicting sets of rights; on the one hand the right of a smoker to be able to smoke where they like including when they are out enjoying themselves with their mates; and on the other hand the fundamentally important right of people not to have their health compromised by polluted air when they are out eating a meal or having a drink in the pub.

It is the fact that these rights conflict or are even diametrically opposed to each other that generates all the heat.

Some smokers say that it is nobody elses business except theirs - and certainly not the governments - whether or not they smoke and where they chose to smoke.

The libertarian approach argues that if smokers want to smoke themselves to an early grave, and go out and smoke with their mates, they should be left alone to do it without interference from anyone else.

This indvidualistic approach would be plausible if smokers only caused themselves an early grave.

But the terrible fact is that every time a person smokes they put the health of any other person who happens to be around at risk.

Because the horrifying fact is that twice as much smoke is released directly into the air from a burning cigarette than is inhaled through the cigarette.



And the equally horrifying fact is that cigarette smoke which all second hand smokers are exposed to, contains approximately 4000 chemicals -- 43 of which are known carcinogens.

And that is why every person who passively breathes second hand smoke is at risk -and in particular children and people who work regularly in a smoky environment.

People who are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke are at increased risk of lung cancer, heart disease, respiratory illnesses such as asthma.

It is estimated that 388 deaths are caused each year by exposure to second hand smoke. And every one of those deaths is preventable. It is estimated that of those, 150 people die each year from workplace smoke, and every one of those deaths is a preventable death.

And it is this important public health issue, the preventable deaths and ill-health of hundreds of ordinary New Zealanders from passive smoking, that this bill addresses.

Although the issue of protecting people from second-hand smoke, especially cafes and bars, is a highly controversial; contentious issue, it is an issue that we must not shirk from or put into too hard basket, because it is not only contributing to a huge amount of ill-health in our community and to an out of control health bill. It is also an ethical issue. People should not have to compromise their health in order to earn a living.

The 5000 New Zealanders who work in the hospitality industry, who inhale a deadly amount of second hand smoke, must be protected from second hand smoke.

But if this bill sets out to protect New Zealanders from passive smoke, it does so in a way that can only be described as flawed. It is no secret that there were behind the scenes negotiations and trade offs in the writing of this SOP; and these trade offs have resulted in legislation which contains compromises and serious flaws.

I doubt that anyone really believes that the proposal to allow smoking in half of a pub or a cafe if it is separately ventilated and closed off is anything other than an unsatisfactory compromise.

The proposal would not only be costly -and in many cases impossible --for small bars and cafes to implement; it is also fundamentally flawed. Because if one of the principal objectives of the legislation is to prevent the detrimental effect of other peoples smoking on the health of people in workplaces; why would it be any more acceptable to continue to expose workers to the detrimental effects of second hand smoke in half a pub or half a café than it would be to expose them to second hand smoke in an all of a café or bar?

And if protecting people in the workplace from the harmful effect of second hand smoke is the principal objective of the legislation, why would we postpone implementing key provisions of the legislation which would protect the people who are most exposed to the detrimental effect of smoke in their workplace -the bar and café workers -- until 2007?

If the experts are correct -and we can only assume they are-that passive smoking in workplaces is killing 150 New Zealanders a year why would be wait till 2007 -until there has been 900 more preventable deaths, until we take action to remedy this intolerable situation?

The reason for these flawed provisions of course is that they are a political compromise; a way of trying to dilute the opposition of the hospitality industry, and some -but by no means all-smokers to this bill.

The Green Party will support this bill to select committee despite these provisions that we consider flawed, because we believe these issues can be addressed in the select committee.

While we can readily see the problems with the bill, the solutions are not as obvious, and we will be listening very carefully to the submissions on the bill.

We believe there may be merit in doing what other countries have done, such as in Australia, and making a distinction in the legislation between cafes and restaurants and places which have the principal purpose of dining, and bars. We believe there may also be merit in the proposal of the Smoke Free coalition to require all cafes and restaurants to be completely smoke free as a first step, and take action on bars as a second step.

But if we are to consider the option of separate rooms for smokers in bars, then the Green Party believes we must ensure that those rooms are not serviced by workers.

We believe the arguments of the hospitality industry are exaggerated; as is the scaremongering that has been generated by Penny Webster from the Act party.

We support most of the other provisions in this legislation - a smokefree norm that would apply to all workplaces, and not just offices; restrictions on display of tobacco products and so forth.

Obviously we strongly support the provisions that require fuller disclosure of the contents of tobacco products and for pictorial warnings relating to the products effect on health to be displayed on the tobacco packet. But we want to go even further than that.

Cigarettes contain more than 600 additives which are authorised for use in tobacco products. Companies add an extraordinary array of additives to enhance the taste of tobacco smoke; to numb the throat so that smokers don't feel smoke's aggravating effects; to make cigarettes more palatable to first time users and even children.

Manufacturers must be required to disclose all additives and ingredients used in tobacco products, by brand, to the Minister of Health, and this information must be made available to the public through the internet. This information should also be disclosed on a the contents of tobacco products.

As well, tobacco companies should be required to disclose the purpose of an additive and be required to undertake extensive toxicology and pharmacological testing of all additives to demonstrate that they are safe, but also that they are safe when combined with smoke and other additives.

We require these toxicological testing and disclosure of all additives used in food. We can think of no good reason why would not require their disclosure in cigarettes.

ENDS

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