Senator's smoking comments misguided: AMA

Senator David Leyonhjelm's speech on smoking has been slammed by the Australian Medical Association. (AAP)

Crossbench Senator David Leyonhjelm's views on smoking are disappointing and misguided, the AMA says.

Liberal Democratic senator David Leyonhjelm's speech on smoking has been described as "misguided" and "utterly inappropriate" by the Australian Medical Association (AMA).

In his speech to the Senate on Wednesday, the libertarian senator vowed to stand up for the rights of the one in five Australians who choose to smoke.

AMA vice-president Dr Stephen Parnis said he was disappointed by the comments.

"It's an unfortunate case that an elected member of the parliament has allowed ideology to get in the way of reality," he said.

"That reality is that smoking kills.

"It causes long, drawn out painful deaths for thousands of Australian every year.

"Senator Leyonhjelm's comments are misguided, utterly inappropriate and quite disappointing.

"No one complains about life-saving care when I'm in my resuscitation bay treating someone who cannot breathe because of the effect of lung cancer.

"I'm an emergency physician and I see these patients on a very regular basis."

In Senator Leyonhjelm's speech entitled Thank You For Smoking, he lamented the treatment smokers receive, despite contributing roughly $8 billion a year to federal government coffers.

He said last year smokers imposed about $320 million on Australia's healthcare system and - depending on rainfall - normally cost another $150 million a year in bushfire control.

"If you do even basic arithmetic, these figures disclose that you wonderful, generous smokers pay 17 times as much as you cost," he told the chamber.

"Smokers of Australia, despite your generosity, I need to apologise on behalf of the short-sighted pickers of your pockets in this place."

He said politicians did not like their habit because they worried that someone, somewhere, was having a good time without them.

Instead, they punished smokers by banning cigarette advertising from all sports and stubbing out the practice in prisons and mental institutions.

Efforts to crack down on cigarettes had done nothing, he argued, but hand "all that lovely tax money" to organised criminals.

The regime controlling cigarettes now resembled the prohibition and the war on drugs despite it being a legal choice.

"I think people like me need to do better by you, the smokers of Australia," he said.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch