In a bid to reduce the smoking rates in Australia’s indigenous population the Federal Government is launching the first anti-smoking campaign this Monday (today) aimed specifically at indigenous Australians. Figures have shown that nearly 50% Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people smoke, and one in five die from smoking-related diseases. According to Government spokesmen the new campaign is part of its plan to halve the number of indigenous smokers by 2018. The radio, television and print campaign will cost $4 million and is part of the Government's wider aim to significantly reduce the number of Australians who smoke.
Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the advertisements being launched today are deliberately personal - featuring a young indigenous woman listing those friends and family members she has lost due to smoking. “It's a very personal story from an Indigenous woman who doesn't want her children growing up thinking that dying from smoking is a normal thing to happen and we've got research that shows this is powerful - Indigenous people talking to other Indigenous people, saying that you can kick the habit,” Ms Roxon explained.
Ms Roxon added, “Our goal nationally is to bring the smoking rate down to 10 per cent by 2018, but because the indigenous smoking rate is around 50 per cent, we'd like to cut that by half in that time…It's why we've got this targeted advertising campaign, but we've also employed a large number of Indigenous tobacco workers to work directly with families and communities to help them kick the smoking habit.”
According to national coordinator for tackling indigenous smoking Tom Calma, mainstream campaigns were not getting through. “What people wanted is something that they can relate to and so this is an attempt to be able to do that…A punitive-type message is not going to help. What we need to do is educate people so that they understand the relationship between smoking and poor health and disease and death.” Mr Calma hopes the campaign should help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people learn more about the support that is available to help all Australians quit smoking.
“The Gillard government is not going to stand back when death and disease caused by smoking can be prevented,” Indigenous Health Minister Warren Snowdon said. Late last year, Mr Snowdon admitted mainstream anti-smoking campaigns over the past 50 years had missed the mark when it came to indigenous Australians. He had said that this was because some communities had poor literacy while others didn't watch television. He had said new education campaigns would have to target specific communities. Labor has since rolled out teams of anti-smoking health workers in 57 regions across the country.