It’s time to make smoking history, writes Katie Clift of Cancer Council Queensland

Whether ’tis proper under the law to entertain the lethal coughs and splutters of poor health, or to take action against an addictive habit, and by so doing, vanquish it.

With all the noise surrounding last week’s State Budget (yawn), you might not have heard about a Private Member’s Bill that could help to make smoking history.

The Tobacco and Other Smoking Products (Extension of Smoking Bans) Amendment Act 2015 introduced by Shadow Health Minister Mark McArdle, calls for statewide smoke free spaces to protect Queenslanders from the harmful effects of smoking.

The Bill seeks to stop cigarettes from being sold at ‘pop-ups’ and would prohibit smoking within five metres of Queensland Government buildings, at public transport waiting points and pedestrian malls, and at swimming pools and skate parks.

The proposed amendments will safeguard people from second-hand smoke, encourage more smokers to quit, and prevent more young people from taking up this lethal habit.

It responds to community appeals for smoke free places and acknowledges the evidence that most smokers want to quit, providing model law reforms for adoption by the State Government.

If the Bill is passed, it will raise the global benchmark in tobacco control and set a new standard for public health and wellbeing. Children and young people will benefit significantly, with discouragement of generational smoking and reduced exposure to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

Make no mistake, the death toll of smoking is an avoidable tragedy. Smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in Queensland: two in three Queensland smokers will die from the habit; one-third of smokers will tragically die in middle age, losing at least 20 years of life; and current smokers will die an average of 10 years earlier than non-smokers, with mortality rates increasing substantially with the increased intensity of smoking.

Smoking is estimated to cost the Queensland economy more than $6 billion each year, causing 3,700 deaths and resulting in over 35,000 hospitalisations. One in five male deaths and one in 10 female deaths each year in Queensland are due to smoking-related illness and disease, and 46 per cent of these are people under the age of 75.

Tragically, about 370 Queensland non-smokers die each year from illness and disease caused by second-hand smoke.

We expect to see a high level of community support for the Bill, with fewer daily smokers today than at any time in history.

Bipartisan approval of the Bill, if it happens, will be a game-changer for community health.

If you’d like to have your say in support of the Bill, make a written submission via hasc@parliament.qld.gov.au.

And snaps to Mark McArdle for his action. The Shadow Minister and Member for Caloundra has been a long-time champion of cancer control in Queensland, supported by former Health Minister and current Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg.

Let’s hope that all parties put politics aside to make smoking history.