Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (13:19): I am really pleased to speak on this motion, and I thank Ms Maxwell for bringing it here. I will commit to speaking very briefly on this motion because I know it is Dr Kieu’s smoko time very soon.
Australia was a leader in tobacco harm reduction, tobacco reduction. We were a leader in reducing people smoking. We are no longer. We have stalled, and as a result of that we are also losing control of the market. As Ms Maxwell stated in her contribution, we are seeing that the illicit tobacco market is growing and organised crime is taking hold. In fact just last night there was a major bust up in my region—Reservoir, Campbellfield and all of those areas—where three gang members were arrested. There was a huge haul of heroin along with a huge haul of illicit tobacco. So that is what we are seeing.
It is very hard to value the illicit market. I know that Ms Maxwell has put a value going by the AMA’s submission to the federal government, but I actually looked at this as well. We spend about $14 billion a year on tobacco, and there is an estimate that the illicit market is about 17 per cent of the market, so that is actually $830 million. So you can see what a great incentive that is for organised crime, when some of our poorest people are our biggest smokers. We know when we look at the statistics it is not Kew and Toorak where we are seeing smoking, it is actually my electorate. It is Campbellfield. It is the lowest five SES areas where we see the highest level of smoking. The highest level of smoking is in our Indigenous population and in people who are unemployed, so the people who can least afford $48 for a packet of cigarettes are being charged that—I looked it up, Dr Kieu. It is the leading cause of preventable death, but what are we doing? We are pushing people into the illicit market.
Now, I support Ms Maxwell’s proposition for licensing for greater control of that market; I get that. But we have got to find the sweet spot in demand reduction, supply reduction and harm reduction, the way we treat all other drugs, and we are not doing that. So for a very brief moment what I do want to talk about is that harm reduction, is that supply reduction. In the Australian health survey one in four smokers said that price would have an effect, four in 10 said that health impacts would have an effect and one in three smokers said they did not want to give up. So if we want to reduce the illicit market, we need to reduce the demand for this product. It is harm reduction; it is drug policy 101. So how do we do that supply reduction?
I would suggest: let us look at harm minimisation. Let us look at something like vaping. That is something this government could do. This government has actually repeatedly prohibited vaping in Victoria. It is absolutely crazy. We have got countries like the UK putting vapes on their PBS. They are actually paying for people to use vaporisers, because they know that it reduces the tobacco market and saves lives. I want to yet again repeat that vaping saves lives. If this government was brave, if this government was serious about addressing the tobacco market, if it was serious about addressing the illicit tobacco market—by all means license tobacconists, license people who are selling tobacco, try and reduce that. But when you have got a product that is so expensive and is so addictive, you have to deal with demand reduction and harm reduction. So I yet again implore the government, in looking at addressing this really important issue that Ms Maxwell has raised, to reconsider their position on nicotine replacement therapies such as vaping.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan
Ms Maxwell’s motion 8/9/21