The Guardian 9 February, 2005

Tobacco action needed to slash cancer

The Federal Government has been urged on World Cancer Day, February 4, to fully fund a new five-year National Tobacco Strategy to stem smoking-caused diseases and avoid a blowout in deaths and health care costs.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Australia says the government's National Tobacco Strategy now up for renewal needs realistic funding to ensure it saves lives and money.

Federal government spending on education campaigns that encourage people to quit smoking has declined to just $2 million a year despite their own research showing that tobacco control is the most cost-effective investment in health spending.

"Tobacco products are killing around 19,000 Australians a year by far our biggest preventable cause of death; and it's costing our national economy more than $21b a year, dwarfing its $5b excise revenue, said ASH Chief Executive, Anne Jones.

"And because of our ageing population the research says these costs will skyrocket unless a concerted effort is made now to reduce smoking rates. PBS drug subsidy costs alone will suffer a billion-dollar blowout unless preventive measures are taken.

"Although incremental progress has been made in reducing smoking over the past 20 years, federal government funding levels for tobacco control are low far lower, in fact, than for any other significant life-threatening problem you can name; and far less per capita than what the US, Canada, New Zealand or other comparable countries are putting in.

Ms Jones pointed out that this is a clear-cut case of how investing in halving national smoking prevalence of around 21 percent would deliver enormous benefits including saving lives, reducing disabilities and slashing billions in avoidable drug costs.

"We urge the Howard Government to show leadership, vision and economic responsibility by fully funding the National Tobacco Strategy for 2004-2009."

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