August 28, 2010 - Spending on anti-tobacco advertising, described by New South Wales's (NSW) chief cancer officer Professor David Currow as "pivotal" to reducing smoking rates, has been slashed by more than $5 million because of a budget requirement that government advertising expenses be cut by 25 percent.
The cuts have led to a 37 per cent fall in the frequency and number of anti-smoking ads placed by the Cancer Institute NSW, official figures show.
But state-owned corporations including NSW Lotteries, Sydney Water and EnergyAustralia were exempt because their advertising brings in customers and money for the state.
Greens MP John Kaye said the advertising cuts would see smoking rates increase, and made no economic sense. More young people would take up smoking, while fewer would quit, he said. "In May this year, the state's chief health officer released a study showing that the most recent estimate of the social costs attributable to tobacco in NSW is $6.6 billion annually," Dr Kaye said. "The 5.1 per cent cut to smoking rates achieved so far have cut the total social costs by more than $300 million each year.
"In economic terms alone, the advertising campaign pays for itself many hundreds of times over within a year."
But Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Cancer) Frank Sartor said the effectiveness of the Government's anti-smoking campaign could not be measured in spending. "The best measure of any control program is its effectiveness and results, rather than a focus on campaign spending," Mr Sartor said in a statement. "In NSW, adult smoking rates are now at a record low of 17.2 percent, down from 18.4 percent a year earlier. Female smoking rates fell by 3 percent last year to 14.2 percent."
Anne Jones, Chief Executive Officer, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Australia and recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia, called for the Cancer Institute to be added to the list of government agencies exempt from the advertising cuts.
References: Anger as state cuts anti-smoking ad budget by $5m, Sean Nicholls STATE POLITICAL EDITOR, The Sydney Morning Herald, 8/27/2010; Cuts to anti-smoking spending slammed, AAP (Australian Associated Press), Daily Telegraph, 8/27/2010.