Mr GEPP (Northern Victoria) (15:11): My name is Mark, and I once inhaled! I am a former smoker. Funnily enough, Mr Finn and I were having a bit of a chinwag out the back earlier today and we talked about the time frames in which we have given up. I think between us we have reached our silver anniversary—a combined 25 years.
I am pleased to rise to this because I think the issue of tobacco smoking is a very, very important issue in our community and it should not be taken lightly, and it is not. The one thing I get from almost all of the contributions—I am not sure that Mr Quilty went down this track; I might have missed it—is everybody is very aware of the harmful effects of tobacco smoking and that there is no good that comes of it no matter how you consume that product or any by-products such as nicotine. It is bad for you, it does not do you any good and it will indeed cause you immense harm. So I am very pleased that we are having the debate.
I am a little bit concerned, I have got to say, having listened to some of the contributions, that the suggestion is that if the government does not back vaping as an alternative or some form of methodology to quit smoking, then somehow we are sanctioning the use of tobacco. I think our bona fides have been clear, and these very loose, emotive suggestions that fly around can be offensive. I do not think it is helpful when people suggest that if we do not support this motion, we are killers. I do not think that helps the debate at all. It does not bring anything to the debate, and in fact I think it diminishes the very serious problems that are associated with tobacco smoking.
I have got to say that when you give up smoking it is a very, very difficult thing to do. I do not know too many people who give it up the first time, who do not lapse and then relapse. You know, you kid yourself that, ‘Oh, maybe I can just have one or two when I’m out having a drink at night’. You fall into that trap, and before you know it you are back into your packet-a-day habit.
I think it is very important that as a Parliament, not just a government but a Parliament, when we debate these sorts of propositions—this is ostensibly a medically based debate; it is based on the health of our citizens—we rely on the evidence. We must rely on the conclusive research that is available to us at any one moment in time, and the fact is, notwithstanding people’s particular views about the merits of vaping as a quitting methodology or tool, the authorities, the experts in this field, do not land in that place. They have not yet landed in that place. It would be wrong, and I can imagine a myriad of other circumstances where, if this government was up here urging this place to support a proposition that was going to be aimed at the health of our citizens without absolutely conclusive evidence, we would quite rightly be pilloried. There would be campaigns all over the place—I dare say there would be people out in the streets—and we would be laughed at. It is not a laughing matter, of course, but I think what we do need to do is ensure that when we are going to consider these very important public health and public policy positions we rely on the experts. I know that not all of the experts will always line up and always agree—that is a given—but we certainly do know that in most instances where the majority of our scientists will line up on a particular issue is where there is a lot of evidence that supports a particular proposition.
That is not the case here. The jury is still out on any number of these particular issues. I would be the first one, as a former smoker and now a reformed smoker and understanding the difficulties of going through that quitting process, to champion alternative methods that reduce the use of tobacco and nicotine in Victoria, particularly amongst our young people. I do not think the evidence is there on this particular methodology. I look forward to the continuing research in this area so that we can continue this important debate.