The head of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) appears to have come up with a whole new reason for why Australia should be against equal marriage.

According to the Australian Associated Press, Jim Wallace believes legalising the measure would be a bad move because he claims LGBT people generally have higher rates of health inequality compared to the average heterosexual smoker.

Mr Wallace made the remarks during a same-sex marriage debate at the University of Tasmania.

When answering a question from a student on the relevance of his views, he said:

“I think we’re going to owe smokers a big apology when the homosexual community’s own statistics for its health – which it presents when it wants more money for health – are that is has higher rates of drug-taking, of suicide, it has the life of a male reduced by up to 20 years”.

Mr Wallace continued: “The life of smokers is reduced by something like seven to 10 years and yet we tell all our kids at school they shouldn’t smoke.

“But what I’m saying is we need to be aware that the homosexual lifestyle carries these problems and … normalising the lifestyle by the attribution of marriage, for instance, has to be considered in what it does encouraging people into it,” he said.

However, Mr Wallace’s argument failed to take into account a number of pieces of research that suggest legalising same-sex marriage would actually be of benefit to public health.

In December 2011, an American study of gay and bisexual men in the US state of Massachusetts, where equal marriage is legal, declared: “Marriage equality may produce broad public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions in gay and bisexual men.”

HIV and sexual health charity, the Terrence Higgins Trust, also said in June of this year that introducing equal marriage in the UK would “improve” public health.