25 October 2013
The State Government’s confirmation that it will cease funding for critical tobacco control measures will have a detrimental impact on smoking rates and will cost South Australian lives.
Despite major health groups responding to the public consultation with overwhelming evidence that it was a dangerous move, Health Minister Jack Snelling has announced that he will continue with his plan to cut funding for programs which drive down smoking rates.
The cuts include removing all funding for anti-tobacco media campaigns as well as various programs which help groups like pregnant women and homeless people to quit smoking.
The Minister confirmed his intention to proceed with the cuts late last night and details were made available in SA Health’s response to the proposed saving strategies.
Cancer Council SA has expressed its disappointment at the South Australian Government’s decision to withdraw support for tobacco control media campaigns which have been a key driver in reducing smoking rates across the State from 23.6% in 2003 to 16.2% this year.
Cancer Council SA Chief Executive, Professor Brenda Wilson, said that the decision will hinder the significant progress that has been made to reduce the impact of smoking related harm over the past decade.
“The Government has chosen to ignore the public consultation which provided overwhelming evidence that this was an ill thought out decision,” Professor Wilson said.
“While smoking prevalence in South Australia has declined over the past decade, it continues to be our state and our nation’s largest preventable cause of death and disease.”
The Government’s response includes a suggestion that alternative sustainable funding sources, including a potential increase in the tobacco retailer licence fee may be considered.
“The time has passed for consideration, with around 20 South Australians dying from a tobacco related illness every week, a funding source should have been found before the ads were stopped,” Professor Wilson added.
“Retailers make millions of dollars every year from the sale of tobacco, raising the licence fee from $253 to a minimum of $1000 per annum to cover the cost of anti-tobacco mass media campaigns is a logical step which the Minister must do more than just consider, he must implement immediately.
“Given their success in the past and the overwhelming evidence of the effectiveness of mass media campaigns, this decision does not make financial or health sense.
“Rather than leading to savings, cutting tobacco control measures will result in an increase in costs to SA Health through the provision of treatments and hospital beds for the illnesses caused by smoking.”
Following the previous announcement of the proposed cut, an alliance of health groups consisting of Cancer Council SA, Heart Foundation SA, the AMA and the Asthma Foundation called on the Premier to reverse the decision, pointing to the harm that any cut to tobacco control media campaigns would cause the South Australian community.
“It is disappointing that the Government has not reversed its short-sighted decision to reduce funding,” Professor Wilson said.
Anyone wanting advice on how to quit smoking should call the Quitline on 13 78 48 or visit www.quitsa.org.au.