May 4, 2010 - Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced last week that the government was to raise cigarette excise tax by 25 percent and introduce plain packaging for cigarettes. (Australia - tobacco tax increase now in force, next comes plain tobacco packaging..; Australia - plain packages on all tobacco products within 2-years..; Australia - ASH in support of a national tobacco tax increase..)
The The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance in the Northern Territory (AMSANT) welcomed the tax hike, but says a bigger share of the revenue should be used to fund more targeted anti-smoking programs.
Background: Back in March 2010 the Australian Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, announced 14 sites across the country will benefit from a $10.7 million funding round to promote innovative anti-tobacco campaigns and prevention strategies. (Australia - anti-smoking campaign targets indigenous people..)
Dr David Thomas from the Darwin-based Menzies School of Health Research has stated smoking is the single biggest factor responsible for the gap between the health of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Thomas says one in five Aboriginal deaths in Australia is linked to smoking. (Australia - Smoking 'biggest factor' in Aboriginal deaths..)
He's called on governments across the country to fund programs aimed at cutting Aboriginal smoking rates. Currently, around 50 percent of indigenous people smoke, compared with just 19 percent of all Australians.
The term "Aboriginal" has traditionally been applied to indigenous inhabitants (original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands),of mainland Australia, Tasmania, and some of the other adjacent islands. (Australia - heavy tobacco use killing Aborigines..) Indigenous people (lived in Australia before they were discovered by the outside world) make up almost 30% of the Northern Territory’s population compared to just over 2% nationally. Of these people, over 70% live in remote or rural areas, from large communities such as Wadeye, with a population over 2,300, to small outstations with a population of only four or five. (Australia-Northern Territory Medical expert against health care workers that smoke..)
AMSANT says Aboriginal people smoke on average two-and-a-half times more than other Australians.
Chief executive John Paterson says some of the increased revenue should be allocated for Indigenous health. "We're calling on the Australian Government to make sure that a greater percentage of that revenue is shared with the Aboriginal community control health sector, so that we can get out there amongst our population and work with them to design and develop appropriate programs and services to stop smoking," he said.
"Purely from a perspective of Aboriginal people at high risk of chronic illnesses, this small step will hopefully go a long way."
Mr Rudd has also announced the Government will crack down on internet advertising of cigarettes and will spend $27.8 million on an anti-smoking campaign.
But Mr Paterson says while higher prices may discourage young Indigenous people from taking up smoking, mainstream advertising campaigns simply do not work for Aboriginal people. "Those programs and those services need to be developed and designed by the Aboriginal people themselves so that they can have a sense of ownership," he said.
AMSANT says housing conditions, unemployment and law and justice issues combine to help feed the habit.
Reference: Calls to use cigarette tax hike on Indigenous health, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) News, 5/1/2007.