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O'Connor speaks at WHO tobacco control conference

O'Connor speaks at WHO tobacco control conference

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New Zealand has made significant progress in the fight to curb tobacco use but more still needs to be done, Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor said in Geneva this week.

Mr O'Connor, whose role covers tobacco-related health issues, spoke at the World Health Organisation's first ever conference of parties signed up to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - a treaty initiated a year ago to check tobacco use worldwide.

Delegates from more than 100 countries representing three-quarters of the world's population attended the conference.

Mr O'Connor said New Zealand was recognised as having one of the world's strongest tobacco control programmes, and the government's stance was being met with increased support at home.

"Our most recent achievement, in December 2004, was to introduce smoke-free legislation to provide further protection in indoor workplaces, including bars, casinos and restaurants."

Seventy five per cent of the population support the legislation, he said.

But despite New Zealand's progress it could not afford to rest on its laurels, Mr O'Connor said.

"Major challenges ahead include the disproportionate amount or tobacco-related harm faced by Maori, particularly women, and the fact that far too many young people are still taking up smoking. For the tobacco control treaty to achieve its goals indigenous populations everywhere must be included in the decision-making process."

New Zealand signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in June 2003 and ratified in January 2004, the seventh country in the world to do so.

It has until February 2008 to implement its only outstanding mandatory obligation - to increase the size of warnings on cigarette packets.

Measures included in the treaty could help save 200 million lives by 2050 if a 50 per cent reduction in uptake and consumption rates is achieved, WHO says.

ENDS


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