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Health groups welcome Vic Government’s 5-year tobacco plan

Thursday 21 August, 2008

Peak health groups have nominated removing cigarettes from sight in shops and an extension of smokefree areas to include cars when children are present as the key elements of the Victorian Government's new 5-year tobacco strategy.

The Victorian Government announced a range of tobacco reforms this morning in an effort to reduce smoking in the adult population by 20%, from 17.3% to 13.8% over the next 5 years.

The reforms also include a ban on the sale of tobacco at temporary outlets, a ban on youth-friendly tobacco products including fruit-flavoured cigarettes and a move to make school grounds smoke-free.

Executive Director of Quit, Ms Fiona Sharkie, said with almost 4,000 Victorians losing their lives to tobacco every year more needs to be done to stop the tobacco industry from recruiting new smokers and making it hard for current smokers to quit.

"Each one of the thousands of Victorians who die every year due to smoking leaves behind family and friends 13 years before their time. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Victoria and as such it remains the number one public health priority, so we are pleased the Government has renewed its commitment to cut smoking rates."

"We would particularly urge the Government, who have outlined the display of cigarettes as a key issue in the strategy, to follow the lead of the New South Wales and enact a complete and comprehensive ban of cigarettes displays within a twelve month period."

CEO of the Heart Foundation (Victoria), Ms Kathy Bell, also emphasised that removing tobacco displays from the retail environment would be a critical move to reduce smoking rates.

"Getting cigarettes out of sight in shops helps dismantle the idea that cigarette smoking is normal behaviour, and will reduce the rate of young people taking up smoking. Doing this also provides an effective support for smokers trying to quit," said Ms Bell

"Allowing the tobacco industry to display cigarette packs in shops in any shape or form is basically an endorsement of tobacco promotion."

Director of The Cancer Council Victoria, Professor David Hill welcomed the proposed ban on smoking in cars when children are present, saying there is solid evidence that the limited space of a car increases second-hand smoke exposure to extremely hazardous levels.

"We know that younger people are particularly susceptible to illnesses such as pneumonia, middle ear infection and asthma attacks when exposed to second-hand smoke, and being in a car with a smoking adult gives them a concentrated dose of second-hand smoke in a really confined area."

"The overwhelming majority of Victorian smokers are in favour of smoking being stamped out in cars containing children, and given the level of support for the ban has hit over 90% amongst smokers we are confident that legislation in the area will be largely self-enforcing."

CEO of VicHealth, Mr Todd Harper said mass media campaigns were an essential part of any State-based strategy aimed to reduce the health, social and economic burden of tobacco use.

"We were encouraged when the Victorian Government announced $5.6 million funding for anti-smoking campaigns to 2010 in November last year and reinforce the importance of maintaining support for mass media in the future."

"Tobacco control campaigns play a vital role in any plan to get smoking rates down, but they need to be ongoing and have adequate exposure levels to be really effective," said Mr Harper.

To organise an interview with Professor David Hill, Fiona Sharkie, Todd Harper or Kathy Bell please contact Edwina Pearse on (03) 9635 5400 or 0417 303 811. 

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