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New funding to step up fight against tobacco

Hon Damien O'Connor
Associate Minister of Health

24 May 2007

Budget 07: New funding to step up fight against tobacco

Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor today announced substantial new funding in Budget 2007 to boost New Zealand's ongoing battle against the tobacco epidemic.

In New Zealand, there are around 4500 smoking related deaths each year – every one of them preventable.

Mr O'Connor said extra funding of $43.6 million over four years reflects the Government's determination to take the fight against tobacco to new heights.

"Tobacco control is a high priority for this Government – it is the largest single cause of preventable death in New Zealand. This new investment will allow us to step up the fight against this killer in our communities.

"Also, next Thursday is World Smokefree Day, this is a perfect opportunity to make a personal decision to be smokefree. I encourage all smokers to mark that as the day they quit smoking.

"Tobacco is one of nine health sector target areas agreed by the Ministry of Health and District Health Boards as priorities to be actively addressed and monitored – both for Māori and non-Māori."

Mr O'Connor said New Zealand has made progress in cutting smoking rates over the past few years, including an ongoing reduction in smoking prevalence among young teens, a reduction in Māori smoking – from 50 per cent to 45 per cent, and an increase in the number of smokefree homes.

However, he was keen to see faster progress, and expected the new funding to make a real difference.

Among other initiatives, the new money will fund:

- Extra resources to reduce the number of young people taking up smoking - smoking rates in these groups are reducing and the Government wants to accelerate this. Young Māori, in particular young Māori women, will be a focus.

- Primary care initiatives such as providing cessation guidelines and training for health workers. The aim is to support GPs and other health professionals (for example dentists) to routinely offer smoking cessation advice to patients when they access their services, which has been shown to increase quit attempts throughout the health system.

- Widening access to subsidised nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), which is of proven effectiveness in helping smokers to quit. Currently $2.5 million a year is spent on subsidising NRT (patches and gum). The Government aims to increase the number of people who make quit attempts with the aid of subsidised NRT.

- An increase to Quitline capacity and services. As more people are prompted to attempt to quit smoking, there will be more calls to the Quitline. The Quitline will also be introducing a new initiative to support young smokers to quit with the assistance of text messaging.
- Smokefree pregnancy services will be expanded into areas where there are gaps.

- Mental health services initiatives. Mental health consumers have very high smoking rates. The Government will pilot initiatives to address the complex needs of those accessing mental health services.

- Pictorial warnings media campaign. Graphic pictorial health warnings and the Quitline number will feature on all tobacco packets from February 2008. To coincide with this, the Government will fund a series of advertisements to build on the health messages displayed on these warnings and prompt smokers to quit.

- An evaluation of the new initiatives will be undertaken.

ENDS

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