Queensland best, NT worst in tobacco control

NATIONAL TOBACCO CONTROL SCOREBOARD 2019

The Northern Territory Government has been judged to have been the worst-performing Australian government on tobacco control measures over the last 12 months, and shamed with the Dirty Ashtray Award for 2019.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the National Tobacco Control Scoreboard – run by the AMA and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH) – and the Northern Territory has managed to collect the dubious Dirty Ashtray Award 13 times.

In contrast, the Queensland Government has achieved a remarkable hat trick by topping the scoring to win the coveted National Tobacco Control Scoreboard Achievement Award for leading the nation in tobacco control measures.

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, today released the results of the AMA/Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH) National Tobacco Control Scoreboard 2019 at the National Press Club in Canberra.

Dr Bartone congratulated Queensland on its strong consistent record in stopping people from smoking, and urged the Northern Territory to build momentum with its efforts on tobacco control, while noting the NT Government had amended and strengthened its tobacco control legislation earlier this year.

“The Queensland Government has continued to protect its community from second-hand smoke in a range of outdoor public areas including public transport, outdoor shopping malls, and sports and recreation facilities,” Dr Bartone said.

“Queensland Health is well ahead of other health services in recording smoking status, delivering brief intervention, and referring patients to evidence-based smoking cessation support such as Quitline.

“The Making Tracks – toward closing the gap in health outcomes for Indigenous Queenslanders by 2033 – Policy and Accountability Framework indicates a commitment to reducing smoking among Indigenous communities.

“Funding continues for the B.Strong Brief Intervention training program to strengthen primary healthcare services for Indigenous smokers by increasing the brief intervention skills of health professionals, access to culturally effective resources, and referral to Quitline.

“A dedicated smoking cessation website – QuitHQ – has been developed for the Queensland community, which includes quit support, information for health professionals, and smoking laws. Promotion of QuitHQ includes on-line messages and billboards.”

Dr Bartone said that the Northern Territory is showing signs of moving ahead with stronger tobacco control programs, but we are yet to see solid action and proper funding.

“The NT Government has published a new Tobacco Action Plan 2019-2023 stressing the need for media campaigns, smoke-free spaces, sustaining quit attempts and preventing relapse, and identifying priority populations,” Dr Bartone said.

“But these good intentions are yet to be backed with the necessary funding.”

Dr Bartone said the AMA would like to see the Federal Government take on a greater leadership role to drive stronger nationally coordinated tobacco control to stop people smoking and stop people taking up the killer habit.

“The Federal Government has not run a major, national media campaign against smoking since 2012-13, when plain packaging was introduced,” Dr Bartone said.

“Nor has it implemented any further product regulation or constraints on tobacco marketing in that time.

“We would like to see the National Tobacco Campaign reinstated with additional and sustained funding.

“The $20 million announced during the Federal election health debate is a welcome start, but falls well short of the $40 million a year that is needed for a sustained public education program.

“That is a mere 0.24 per cent of the $17 billion the Government expects to reap from tobacco taxes in 2019-20.

“The Government should also implement a systemic approach to providing support for all smokers to quit when they come into contact with health services.

“These key ingredients should be part of the Minister’s commitment, first announced at the AMA National Conference in May, to develop a National Preventive Health Strategy in consultation with the AMA and other health and medical bodies.

“Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Australia, causing 19,000 premature deaths each year.

“Two-thirds of all current Australian smokers are likely to be killed by their smoking. That is a staggering 1.8 million people.

“While Australia is a world leader in tobacco control, more needs to be done to help people quit smoking, or not take it up in the first place.

“Big Tobacco is attempting to distract attention from evidence-based measures that will reduce smoking, while promoting itself as being concerned about health.

“This is particularly outrageous from an industry whose products kill more than seven million people each year.

“It is crucial that Australia maintains its strong evidence-based policies and avoids being diverted by Big Tobacco’s new distraction strategies, particularly following disturbing evidence from the US and Canada about the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use.

“We must remain vigilant against any attempts to normalise smoking, or make it appealing to young people.

“This includes following the advice of the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Therapeutic Goods Administration in regulating e-cigarettes, and not allowing them to be marketed as quit smoking aids until such time as there is scientific evidence that they are safe and effective.”

The AMA/ACOSH National Tobacco Control Scoreboard is compiled annually to measure performance in combating smoking.

Judges from the Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH), the Cancer Councils, and the National Heart Foundation allocate points to the State, Territory, and Australian Governments in various categories, including legislation, to track how effective each has been at combating smoking in the previous 12 months.

No jurisdiction received an A or B rating this year or last year.

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