Tasmania second for 'least effort' to combat smoking

Tasmania’s efforts to reduce the rate of smoking have been slammed by the Australian Medical Association, which awarded the state second place in its undesirable Dirty Ashtray Award.

The annual award is handed to the state or territory that puts in the “least effort to reduce smoking”.

Tasmania received the runner-up award to the Northern Territory.

The association’s president Michael Gannon praised some reforms to reduce smoking rates, but said more needed to be done.

“Tasmania has ended the smoking exemption for licensed premises, gaming rooms and high roller rooms in casinos, but still allows smoking in outdoor drinking areas,” he said. 

“While Tasmania has the second highest prevalence of smoking in Australia, the Tasmanian Government has not provided adequate funding to support tobacco control public education campaigns to the evidence-based level.”

Dr Gannon said the state should provide consistent funding to the level required to achieve reductions in smoking.

“Ban price boards, retailer incentives and vending machines, and divest the resources of the Retirement Benefits Fund from tobacco companies, limit government’s interactions with the tobacco industry and ban all political donations,” he said. 

“It should also ban all e-cigarette sale, use, promotion and marketing in the absence of any approvals by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.”

In July 2016, Health Minister Michael Ferguson launched the Healthy Tasmania Five Year Strategic Plan.

As part of the plan, the government pledged to invest $1.8 million over four years to increase smoking control, education and targeted interventions.

It also set a target to reduce the number of Tasmanians smoking to 10 per cent by 2020, and down to five per cent by 2025.

After hearing of Tasmania’s Dirty Ashtray placing, Mr Ferguson acknowledged smoking rates had been a “longstanding problem”.

Next week in parliament he will introduce an amendment to the Public Health Act which he said would “make a range of improvements to the tobacco issue” 

“I think that we will begin to receive the gold standard on this in the future from AMA reports,” he added.

“We will progressively get better marks on this.”

Mr Ferguson said the state was “absolutely” on track to reduce smoking rates.