Health Legislation Amendment and Repeal Bill 2019

Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan): I rise to speak on the Health Legislation Amendment and Repeal Bill 2019. The bill amends the Tobacco Act 1987 by extending the definition of a tobacco or e-cigarette advertisement and repealing a redundant mechanism that provides for exemptions to the advertising prohibitions by way of regulation. It repeals the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016 and makes consequential amendments to other acts. It allows for greater sharing of information across the health system. The bill also makes miscellaneous minor amendments to the Health Services Act 1988, the Mental Health Act 2014 and the Health Complaints Act 2016. It was Labor who first introduced smoking bans in Victoria in 2001 in enclosed restaurants, then workplaces, pubs and clubs. We know that smoking kills, and we know that second-hand smoke puts the health of non-smokers at risk. That is why our 2016 legislation banned smoking in outdoor dining areas, restaurants, cafes, takeaway shops and licensed premises. Upon coming back into government the Andrews Labor government brought forward bans on smoking within 4 metres of the entrances to public hospitals, community health services, schools, childcare centres, kindergartens and preschools, and many government buildings, including Parliament, courts and police stations. The Victorian government has been a world leader in tobacco control by restricting the advertising of tobacco and e-cigarette products and by severing the association between the tobacco industry and sports, arts and entertainment. In Victoria smoking rates are continuing to decline. A 2018 Cancer Council survey shows that rates dropped from 13.5 per cent in 2015 to 10.7 per cent in 2018. That is a very significant drop. However, this means that there are still over 700 000 smokers in Victoria. Smoking continues to be a leading cause of preventable chronic disease and death. In Victoria smoking claims about 4400 lives each year. That number is just unimaginable. Smoking is linked to various diseases: cancer, stroke, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and more. We also know there are emerging health concerns associated with e-cigarettes and vaping. There is not enough research on the long-term impact of vaping and e-cigarettes, but there is growing evidence of direct health harms, including increased risk of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and carcinogenesis. We cannot put Victorians on the line. We cannot risk the health of Victorians, particularly our younger generation. The younger generation, especially teens, are the most vulnerable population for new tobacco products. The tobacco industry has always targeted younger people. The e-cigarette and vaping devices are being designed so that they look cool, technologically advanced and fancy. It is clear that these companies are targeting the younger crowd. In fact emerging evidence from Canada, the US and the UK all shows a trend between young people taking up vaping and then taking up combustible smoking. We cannot let big tobacco sneak back into our sports and major events. We cannot undo our progress. That is why this legislation is so vital. Big tobacco has used new advertising sponsorship partnerships with several motorsport teams for both the Formula One and motorcycle grand prix championship seasons. We are making strong efforts to protect Australians from the commercial interests of the tobacco industry. We understand that nicotine addiction is a problem for many Victorians. That is why the Victorian government invests around $9 million annually in a comprehensive range of tobacco control measures. This bill also repeals the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act. The Andrews Labor government is proud to have led the nation when it comes to medicinal cannabis. The Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act was an Australian first and introduced at a time when our federal government would not act. However, we did. Because of us, for the first time in this country there was legislation in place to enable access to safe, quality controlled medicinal cannabis. Soon after the Victorian Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act was passed, the commonwealth changed their mind and established a comprehensive national regulatory system for patient access, cultivation and manufacture. As a result, the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act became unnecessary and duplicative, and hence was never implemented. With this bill the Andrews Labor government is once again demonstrating our commitment to ensuring that Victorian hospitals are the very best and the very safest in the world. The bill will improve the quality and safety of health services in Victoria by enhancing the flow of information and supporting safety and quality oversight. The bill only allows confidential information to be shared to the extent necessary to achieve quality and safety purposes. I commend this bill to the house