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Matildas join in Smokefree Soccer Initiative

Australia's Matildas will be playing a key role in a global anti-tobacco strategy which has been endorsed by the World Health Organisation and the Federation of International Football Associations, Federal Health Minister, Dr Michael Wooldridge said today.

In an address this week to the 11th World Conference on Smoking OR Health in Chicago, Dr Wooldridge was pleased to announce that the Australian Government and Australian Women's Soccer, would be joining the US in its SmokeFree Soccer Initiative.

"As part of the strategy, the Matildas will be involved in a range of promotional activities including a poster campaign to further the anti-tobacco message to a world-wide audience, and in particular, to young people in developing countries who are subjected to prolific tobacco advertising," Dr Wooldridge said.

The Minister said that with the Sydney Olympics almost upon us, this event will also serve as an even greater opportunity for the international women's soccer teams to join the Matildas in promoting the anti-tobacco message.

"On a global scale, soccer is one of the most popular sports for young people and therefore an excellent platform in which to encourage young people to reject tobacco products," Dr Wooldridge said.

"Currently there are approximately 62,000 women playing soccer with registered clubs in Australia. Around 80% of these players are aged up to 18.

"With increasing numbers of young teenage girls taking up smoking, it's vital we get the anti-tobacco message to this target audience.

"According to a 1996 Australian Secondary School Students Survey, 16% of 12 to 15 year old girls smoked in the last week while in the 16 to 17 year age bracket the figure jumped to 32%.

"Having our healthy athletes promoting the benefits of being smoke-free will be an excellent point-scoring opportunity for the anti-tobacco movement and the Federal Government," Dr Wooldridge said.

Further enquiries can be made via www.australia.org.nz

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