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Issue 18, May-June 1997
NSMA Protests but Tobacco Close to NSW Win
On Tuesday the 6th of May, the Non-Smokers' Movement of Australia, staged a lunch time protest outside NSW Parliament House. Members were worried that the independent Smoking Regulation Bill 1996 was going to be gutted by 'Amendments', which had been introduced by the Shadow Health Minister, Jillian Skinner. The protest began in Martin Place and protesters, applauded by lunch time crowds, carried a coffin representing both the death of the Smoking Regulation Bill and the 19,000 Australians that die from smoking caused illnesses. Protesters also carried placards highlighting the complicity of both the Liberal and Labor parties with both tobacco companies.
The initiators of the bill, Independent members Reverend Fred Nile MLC and Dr Peter Macdonald addressed the protesters outside Parliament House and reinforced the importance of both the Bill and the need for it to pass through both the upper and lower houses without amendments. Australian Democrat leader Liz Kirkby spoke of her support for the bill. However, the support from the Independents and the Democrats and the NSMA's noisy protest were to no avail. That afternoon the Bill was passed in the upper house with the Liberal amendments supported by both the Liberal and Labor parties. On 21 May Dr Refshauge introduced a bill which is almost as weak as the Skinner one. The tobacco industry has almost won.
The unamended Nile/Macdonald Smoking Regulation Bill proposed to prohibit smoking in all enclosed public places.
This included restaurants, pubs, clubs by defining a public place as any place that was a place of employment. It was to be implemented 6 months after the Bill had been passed in the upper and lower houses.
The NSW Liberals (and the Labor Party in supporting the amendments) destroyed the Smoking Regulation Bill. The amendments mean that smoking will be prohibited in enclosed public places 5 years after the prescription of an air quality standard. Since there is no such standard in existence, and the only draft one is both quite unsatisfactory. As was pointed out in Update 15, the Standard is under the control of air-conditioning interests which seem much more influenced by tobacco industry than the health forces.
The bottom line is that after these amendments, smoke-free air may come 5 years after never-never time, and to a standard that may not even be satisfactory! The tobacco industry has achieved a guarantee of no action for over 5 years, so the bill is actually worse than nothing. The President of the NSMA, Dr Arthur Chesterfield-Evans described the amendments as a "Trojan Camel". Yet the media treated this defeat as a great health victory, and wrote as if it was progress!
The Standards Australia draft Air Quality Standard was rejected by the Passive Smoking Taskforce (appointed and then ignored by Dr Refshauge) because ventilation does not remove cancer causing agents. There can be no magic line dividing smoke free air and smoky air. So, the amendments if passed in the Lower House will effectively mean that NSW will have Smoking Regulation Laws that may never be implemented! And there is to be an exemption for large indoor places. Central Railway station was given as an example. Perhaps football stadiums and even large discotheques to be included too?
One parliamentary observer commented that the health groups got too close to Jillian Skinner who got approval for a few minor amendments and then gutted the bill. When it was introduced, Upper House MLC John Hannaford falsely claimed support from all health groups- even from NSMA! One theory was that this upset Dr Refshauge, who supported the bill as revenge on the health groups. Others said that Refshauge was rolled in Caucus, by Labor members who did not realise what a Trojan Camel it was.
At present the only hope is that the bill will not pass, but it is hard to see how this can happen with both Labor and Liberal support it.
Action Point 1
Make an appointment and visit your local State Member expressing your horror at the 5 year delay on any action and ask that the time frame be changed and a standard be set by the Health Department. Demand that non-smokers rights be given preference to polluters' rights. We must lobby NOW!
If you need help to get a group together or are unsure who your local member is, call Brian McBride on 9894-6647 or 018 023-636.
Action Point 2
Collect signatures for the petition enclosed and send it to NSMA office ASAP.
It remains to say a big 'Thank you' to those who attended the rally and those who worked on the telephone tree. Members welcomed the opportunity to do more than read the newsletter and write letters. A big thanks again!
And thanks also to our heroic treasurer, Jim Proctor who, after 6 years of balancing the books, is taking leave of absence to do a world trip for a year. Bon voyage Jim!
For your interest, a Video of the rally is available. Please send $10 to the NSMA office if you are interested.
Federal Government Also Elects to Do Nothing
The Federal Govt was unlikely to be involved in any class action against tobacco companies, said Health Minister, Dr Michael Wooldridge. West Australian, 25/3/97.
NH & MRC Authors Criticise Federal Govt.
Authors of the National Health and Medical Research Council Report on Passive Smoking which is suppressed by the Federal Govt called yesterday for its immediate release amid claims Australia was in the grip of a 'wave of political gutlessness' over legislative action on passive smoking.
Prof. Konrad Jamrozik, a member of the committee which complied the report, called on Health Minister Wooldridge to release the report. The Australian, 28/4/97.
Qantas Trade Practices Suit Fails
Leonie Cameron, who accused Qantas of misleading and deceptive conduct over non-smoking seats on international flights failed in her bid to take the matter to the High Court. In 1992 she claimed her holiday to Bangkok was ruined by sickness after she was seated in a smoking area against her wishes. She alleged the airline breached the Trade Practices Act by accepting requests for non-smoking when it knew there was little prospect of securing such an allocation. Daily Telegraph, 11/4/97.
Further Delay Sought on ACT Smoke-Free Bill The ACT Government will seek the support of Assembly members to delay the final stage of the smoke-free law for some pubs and clubs.
The law was introduced at the end of 1994 and provided for a staged ban on smoking in enclosed public places - first shopping centres and other public buildings, then restaurants, and in June this year clubs, bars and hotels. Smoking would be allowed in up to half a pub or club if it installed special air-conditioning equipment.
But the Government now wants to give smaller premises more time to comply. Chief Minister Kate Carnell said pubs, clubs and taverns were finding the economic climate tough in Canberra at the moment, and the Government did not want to make things worse. Australian Hotels Association ACT branch manager Ken Smith said between 75% and 95% of hotel patrons smoked and many smaller businesses could not afford the cost of $10,000 or more to upgrade their air-conditioning and could not survive the drop in patronage if they had to ban smoking.
Canberra ASH did not accept that hotels' viability would be threatened. Dr Alan Shroot said about 75% of adults were non-smokers and pubs and clubs would find their patronage increasing among that group if they provided a smoke-free environment. Canberra Times April 15/4/97.
The moral of the story is, even when given 3 years to comply, they try to delay things further, and base this on an absurd percentage of smokers in their patrons.
Health Groups Concerned re US Settlements
US public health groups are not party to the negotiations between tobacco companies and attorneys general for a package of compensation and are concerned that the tobacco companies will get exemption from prosecution, loopholes that they can continue to advertise through, and pay a low level of compensation, which will be merely a slight tax rise. The fact that tobacco shares rose as the announcement came is not good news for the health forces. Brian Fox and Stanton Glantz expressed concern and now the editorial in 'Tobacco Control' asked for these criteria:
Minimal components of any settlement should include:
Calculations show that the harm done by tobacco is far more than their profits and has been calculated at about $2432 billion, which is at about the level that a monopoly could achieve selling cigarettes. 'Tobacco Control' 23/4/97.
The compensation sums being discussed are much lower than this, around $US300 billion. This sounds a lot, but over 25 years and not adjusted for inflation, it is estimated at about 5% of the cost of tobacco-caused illness. No wonder the share prices rose. It is also anticipated that the payout will be financed by a 25 to 50 cent price rise. Much of the money will go to the Attorneys-General who will use it to finance tobacco-caused diseases paid for by Medicaid, the health scheme for the poor. And whether preventive health concerns will be taken into account in the final settlement also remains to be seen.
The prospect of settlement has split the US health community with the Cancer Society, Heart Assoc., Matt Myers, Dick Daynard and Ron Davis in favour of settlement. Against the settlement are the Lung Association, ASH (US), Stan Glantz, Julia Carrol and Congressman Henry Waxman. The opponents say the deal gives short-terms gains but long-term aspects will help the Industry.
Lawyers are also split. Some who will get a commission on the deal are in favour of it, others who are fighting for plaintiffs are not.
But it looks as though it will go ahead, unfortunately. The question is whether the US Congress will ratify it and agree to give immunity form prosecution. But Tobacco industry spent a lot of money in marginal seats, and a lot of money on the Republicans, who now have a majority in both houses.
New Canadian Bill
The Canadian legislation, the Tobacco Act (Bill C-71), was passed by the House of Commons March 6th, 1997 (it now goes to the Senate). It re-creates the advertising ban that was destroyed by the courts, restricts availability to minors, improves pack warnings and forces disclosure of additives.
Britain Proposes Tobacco Ad Ban
Britain's newly governing Labor party has proposed to ban tobacco advertising entirely. Currently, Britain has voluntary curbs on tobacco advertising that have been in place since 1971. While the overall smoking rate has decreased, smoking rates have stayed steady among 11-15 year olds between 1982 and 1992, rising to 12 percent in 1994.
Wall Street Journal, 15/5/97.
Good and Bad in India
New Delhi's Health Minister has banned smoking in cinemas, offices, buses, railway stations and parks. Sydney Morning Herald, 3/5/97.
Angry Indian health workers yesterday demanded stern action against the management of the Indian Tobacco Company for using children in an advertising campaign for a new cigarette. The Times of India, 13/3/97.
More Legal Fights
Wills Mounts Court Challenge to New SA Tax
WD & HO Wills will launch a High Court Challenge against South Australia's new tobacco tax which taxes cigarettes according to their tar content. The Advertiser 25/3/97.
Disability Test Case for Night-club Air
Cystic fibrosis survivor, Sue Meeuwissen, who is feeling much better after a double lung transplant 3 years ago, went to Juliana's Night-club in the Sydney Hilton. Her new lungs have an asthmatic response and could not stand up to the smoky air there so she took action under the Disability Discrimination Act to enforce her right to goods and services, stating that the barrier of smoky air prevented her access and enjoyment of the premises. The case was heard in Sydney on 19-20 May at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. The verdict will take 6-7 weeks.
Barmaid with Throat Cancer Sues Bars
Marlene Sharp, a non-smoking bar attendant who developed throat cancer after working in Port Kembla Hotel and RSL Club for more than 20 years is suing her former employers, claiming passive smoking contributed to her disease. It is the first passive smoking case in NSW involving a worker in the hospitality industry. Sydney Morning Herald, 30/4/97.
Out of the controversial AGM for tobacco company WD & HO Wills emerged at least one winner. The lawyers with Clayton Utz collected almost $1m in fees for the 1996 year. The soaring costs coincide with the proceedings started in February last year against all the cigarette makers in the Victorian courts in a personal injury case involving Wills' product Super Mild. Sydney Morning Herald, 18/4/97.
RJ Reynolds gets off Scott-Free
On the 6th of May a 6 member jury in Florida decided that RJ Reynolds were not negligently responsible for the lung cancer death of Jean Connors at age 49. The jury unanimously agreed that cigarettes she smoked from the age of 15 until to her death were the cause of Ms Connor's death. But they did not find Reynold's negligent because the jury found that during Ms Connor's lifetime the risks of smoking were widely known, even before cigarette packets were legally required to display smoking warnings on packets.
This is a highly disturbing decision. Considering that Ms Connor took up smoking at 15, it suggests a degree of personal choice which transcends tobacco advertising, peer pressure and nicotine addiction! Furthermore, it blames individuals for their own irresponsible actions but does not recognise multi-national tobacco companies role. In other words, in the name of capitalism it is possible to sell anything - even if it kills millions of people each year. This is a vastly disappointing decision for health groups.
Health News Roundup
SA Teenagers Pay $4m Cigarette Taxes
Teenage smokers in South Australia are paying more than $4m a year in cigarette taxes. The Anti-Cancer Foundation estimates there are now almost 23,000 young people between 12 and 17 who smoke. It released figures in an attempt to get more state govt funds for quit campaigns. Advertiser, 6/3/97.
Smoking Linked to HIV Rate
Women infected with HIV and who smoke during pregnancy are more likely than non-smokers to pass the virus onto their babies, a US study has found. The study was from Thomas Jefferson Uni and the New York State Health Dept. Gold Coast Bulletin, 7/4/97.
Low Tar Cigarettes Cause a Different Cancer Smokers who switch to low tar cigarettes are increasingly victims of a different type of cancer, one that reaches deeper into the lungs, a Swiss study has found. US health officials suggest that people smoke low tars differently taking more and deeper puffs to satisfy their cravings. Smokers of low tar cigarettes appear to have a prevalence of a cancer which attacks the tiny outer branches of the lungs. The research was done by Dr Fabio Levi, professor of Epidemiology at the Uni of Lausanne in Switzerland. Adelaide Advertiser, 1/3/97.
New Zealand News
NZ Health Minister, Neil Kirton has introduced the Smokefree Environments Amendment Bill, which is being supported by health groups there. There is some danger that a maverick MP, Mr Quigley wants to refer it to a committee to try to get a total ban on smoking! Health groups are concerned that this will play into the tobacco industry's hands, as delay would prejudice passage of the bill!
The Smokefree Coalition now has a full time director, Roger Booth. 64-4- 472 0157, fax 499 2925. PO Box 3082 Wellington New Zealand.
FADE, (Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Education) in conjunction with the Health Sponsorship Council, has just released a school workbook for use in schools called "Smokefree....The Choice" containing activities teachers can use in the classroom. Graeme Kearney, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smoking Frontman Expresses Late Regrets
Stuart Wagstaff, who made a career from 116 Benson and Hedges commercials spanning two decades has disclosed he regretted his lucrative liaison with the tobacco industry. He is quoted as saying, "One thing that concerns me deeply in the light of what we know today is that I might have been instrumental in people starting smoking. The company policy was that the ads were intended to make people who accept smoking change brands but, of course, people must have indeed have started as a result of it. And that I regret."
His expedient "what we know today" remark echoes comments in the same article by John Cornell, one time manager of Paul Hogan, star of the Crocodile Dundee movies. Hogan and Cornell helped launch the Rothmans Winfield brand in Australia prior to the 1976 ban, helping it climb to market leader, a position it has never lost. Hogan was banned from the Winfield campaign in 1979 after a ruling that he had phenomenal appeal to children -- thus breaching the industry's voluntary advertising code .
Prof Simon Chapman comments "Cornell, Hogan and Wagstaff commenced their tobacco advertising contracts long after the 1962 report on smoking and health of the Royal College of Physicians and the first Surgeon General's report on smoking (1964). The following decade had seen a huge amount of publicity in the media about smoking and health, and in 1973 -- before Cornell and Hogan commenced their contract -- Australian tobacco packs began to feature health warnings. Their "we didn't realise ..." defences therefore sounds particularly strategic and disingenuous in light of international developments in tobacco control litigation.
Cigarettes advertising on TV was banned in Australia in September 1976, but in April 1997 Wagstaff revealed that the company kept paying him "for nothing" until 1993 -- 17 years later. "They believed whenever a group of people saw me they thought, subliminally, Benson & Hedges. So they kept me on the payroll. I didn't argue."
Wagstaff waited nearly four years after his payments ceased before publicly expressing his "regrets" and still has "only
praise for his former employers". Nice one, Stuart.
Insurance Firms Face $US385B Tobacco Payout
Insurance companies around the world may have to pay out $US300b in compensation for smoking caused deaths. Research by London financial analyst, Paul Hodges of Schroders, has revealed the existence of many product liability policies quietly taken out by the big cigarette companies such as Philip Morris over the past 60 years. His work has shown that poor wording of clauses has given tobacco companies a chance to offload their liabilities. Sydney Morning Herald, 1/5/97.
Governments Can Get $500M For Anti-Smoking Blitz
Australian governments had the potential to recover as much as $500m from tobacco companies to pay for smoking control and cessation programs, a specialist lawyer said yesterday. Sydney lawyer, Neil Francey said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and state consumer affairs organisations should examine consumer protection laws and test them in relation to the conduct of tobacco companies. Courier Mail, 25/3/97.
|The Non-Smokers' Movement of Australia Inc, Box K860, Haymarket NSW 1240.
|This page was last updated on 7th August, 2012.
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