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Turia Speech: Launch of Tobacco Control Research ASPIRE 2025


Hon Tariana Turia
Associate Minister of Health
Launch of Tobacco Control Research Collaboration : ASPIRE 2025
University of Otago, Wellington School of Medicine and Health sciences, Wellington

Friday 22 July 2011, 10.30am Speech
I am delighted to be part of this exciting day – a day when we shift the emphasis from expire to aspire; when we shun death for a celebration of life.

The ancient Roman theologian, Saint Augustine, once asked the question “You aspire to great things? Begin with little ones”.

Today, the launch of the Tobacco Control Research Collaboration Aspire 2025 is about bringing together all the composite parts in order to achieve the longer term goals of prolonging life; of reducing tobacco related illnesses; of enhancing our health and wellbeing.

As the Associate Minister of Health with responsibility for non-communicable diseases and tobacco I have been determined to reduce the high death toll and the large social and economic costs caused by smoking.

Right across the globe we know the tragic reality that tobacco is prematurely killing our greatest source of wealth, our people.

This premature loss of life, as well as the ill-health caused by smoking, hinders the economic and human growth of a country; it costs millions of dollars in health expenditure.

It is like a running record in my head – that an estimated 5,000 New Zealanders die each year due to smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke.

Half of all long-term smokers die of a smoking related illness, losing an average of 15 years of life.

About 650,000 New Zealanders, or one in every five people over the age of 15, continue to put their health and lives at significant risk by smoking. This figure includes approximately 155,000 current smokers who are Māori – about 45% of the Māori population aged between 15 and 64.

You know, I’m someone who generally stays away from ‘persuasion by statistics’ – but these numbers are real. They are our sisters and our brothers; our parents; our whanau.

They are our relations with their persistent cough; our children spluttering under clouds of smoke. They are our loved ones suffering in hospital beds.

They are filling our cemeteries, and leaving behind a huge hole in our hearts; an empty void in our whakapapa.

Our paepae is reduced; our capability is being run-down, by the impact of tobacco – the single leading preventable cause of early death in New Zealand.

And so, the need for us all to have aspirations for a brighter future has never been more apparent.

You will all know that this parliament is very serious about reducing the harm caused by smoking. We believe it is vital that we do more to help people quit smoking and to stop young people from being tempted to take up the habit. We have made a strong and united commitment to Aotearoa becoming a nation that is essentially smokefree by 2025.

I truly believe we have made outstanding progress in establishing a range of initiatives in the name of tobacco control.

This includes health service actions, public education and ensuring the environment is supporting individuals and whānau to make healthy choices.

This progress has been recognised, internationally, in the recent invitation for New Zealand to speak at the World Health Organisation’s Global Forum on addressing the challenge of non-communicable diseases, held in Russia. It was with a great deal of pride that I spoke at that forum, knowing that our prevention and treatment policies and programmes over the past few decades have seen a significant reduction in cardiovascular disease and cancer death rates.

But we still have a long way to go.

We have made significant progress with the increases in tobacco excise 10% last April, 10% in January this year, and it is going up another 10% on top of that in January 2012. We said in the government response to the Māori Affairs inquiry that we will evaluate these rises and look again at further excise rises in future years, and that option is always open if retail prices aren’t rising enough to send the right signals to smokers.

Last Thursday my Smokefree Environments bill was passed almost unanimously in Parliament; meaning that under the new law shopkeepers will have to hide all tobacco products and advertisements from public view.

In fact today is a most auspicious day for this centre to be launched – as it is the day that the Smokefree Environments (Controls and Enforcements) Amendment Bill is officially assented into law. A red-letter day indeed.

And both the Minister of Health and I have publicly indicated that New Zealand will inevitably follow Australia’s lead and look to introduce the plain packaging of tobacco products.

In brief, the evidence indicates that tobacco products packaged in a standardised colour, typeface and form would reduce the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products to consumers, particularly young people; and would over time, as part of a comprehensive suite of tobacco control measures, help to reduce smoking rates.

These are just a few of the initiatives that need to proceed, if we are to make the difference we need.

That is why I am so very pleased at the establishment of this collaboration between Otago and Massey Universities; Whakauae Research and Tala Pasifika.

I want to congratulate Professor Richard Edwards, the Director of this new collaboration; the Health Sponsorship Council and other organisations associated with this event.

I fully support the intentions of this organisation to work together to do what is necessary to achieve a tupeka kore/ tobacco free Aotearoa by 2025.

We need our greatest minds to be working together; to achieve solutions to what seems to be the intractable issues associated with smoking.

I am so proud, and so pleased, to officially launch this new Tobacco Control Research Collaboration – Aspire 2025.

NB: The ASPIRE 2025 team includes Professor Richard Edwards from the University of Otago, Wellington, Professors Janet Hoek and Rob McGee, from the Departments of Marketing and Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, together with partners Dr Heather Gifford from Whakauae Research, Professor Chris Cunningham from Massey University, and Stephanie Erick of Tala Pasifika.


ENDS

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