Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, Dr Bill Glasson, said today that Labor’s promise to inject another $21 million into anti-smoking awareness campaigns would send a strong message to the community to quit the killer habit.
Dr Glasson said a targeted national mass media campaign is long overdue, but must be backed up by coordinated education and legislation.
“Smoking is the greatest preventable cause of death and disease in Australia,” Dr Glasson said.
“It’s making too many Australians chronically and terminally ill. And too many kids, especially young girls, are taking up smoking despite the warnings.
“Better education programs and legislation will help prevent young people taking up smoking and will help others kick the habit.
“Federal Labor says it would fund the public education campaign, if elected. The States must do their bit through legislation and ban smoking in all public places.
“Labor’s commitment to graphic warning labels that cover at least 50 per cent of both sides of cigarette packets is a good move, but 50/90 would have been better,” Dr Glasson said.
Earlier this year the Coalition backed down on its commitment to a 50/50 configuration, announcing instead a 30 per cent front of pack, 90 per cent back of pack configuration – against health industry authority advice for a 50/90, or at least a 50/50 configuration.
Dr Glasson said Labor’s aim to reduce smoking rates to 15 per cent of the population by 2010 is an achievable target.
“Convincing such a large number of Australians to stop smoking or not take up smoking will cut costs to the health system. There’ll be a reduction in Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme expenditure of up to 17 per cent if Labor’s targeted smoking rate is met,” Dr Glasson said.
“This would be a massive return on a $21 million investment.
“As a community we must do everything we can to minimise the harm caused by smoking and passive smoking. Labor’s policy is a good start,” Dr Glasson said.