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Wednesday, 6 May 1987
Page: 2749

(Question No. 5053)

Mr Duncan asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 18 February 1987:

(1) Has his attention been drawn to a recent article in the Medical Journal of Australia on cigarette smoking by Australian school children.

(2) Is it a fact that Australian school children spend $30m per year on cigarettes.

(3) Is it also a fact that 1 in 3 children become regular smokers by the age of 15.

(4) Is it a fact that 1 in 4 smokers eventually dies from smoking related diseases.

(5) Is it a fact that over 16,000 Australians die each year from smoking related diseases.

(6) How many Australians die each year as a result of heroin and opiate use.

(7) What percentage of the resources of the national campaign against drug abuse are allocated to the reduction of smoking by children.

(8) Will he recommend (a) a significant increase in the tobacco excise and (b) further restrictions on tobacco advertising to reduce cigarette consumption.

Dr Blewett —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows.

(1) Yes.

(2) This is the estimate made in the article, but I am not able to confirm the figure.

(3) I am not aware of any work that corrob- orates this statistic. However, the results of the survey show that at the age of 15, about one-third of students report having smoked in the last week. The survey also shows that, in response to a question on their smoking intention, while girls from the age of 13 years onwards had significantly stronger intentions to smoke in a year's time than boys, on the whole the students believed they were unlikely to be smoking in a year's time.

(4) The survey does not address this point. However, I am aware that this is an estimate used by the W.A. Alcohol and Drug Authority. Perhaps as important as the risk of death from smoking is the increased morbidity which is associated with tobacco use.

(5) My Department estimates that in 1984 16,300 deaths were due to tobacco use.

(6) My Department estimates that the number of opiate deaths in 1984 was 229.

(7) The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NCADA) is focusing its efforts on the reduction of drug abuse by young people. Although elements of the Campaign focus on particular drugs-including tobacco-the main thrust of the Campaign is the provision of a comprehensive education program on all drugs. To this end, considerable resources have been provided by the Commonwealth, States and Territories under the cost-shared program for the expansion and improvement of both school based and out of school drug education activities.

The impact of the NCADA has also been greatly complemented by the co-operative agreements reached between all States and Territories and the Commonwealth to utilize the Drug Offensive Logo on State funded anti-drug abuse campaigns such as `Quit for Life' and `Bag the Fag'.

(8) (a) Consideration of levels of excise on tobacco and other products is a matter for consideration in the Budget context.

(b) Controls in this area rest primarily with the States and Territories. The issue of alcohol and tobacco advertising was considered at the 1987 Australian Health Ministers' Conference held in Fremantle. The Conference resolved to meet with the Media Council of Australia with a view to improving the operation of the advertising codes, including public health representation on the relevant bodies. Ministers indicated that if these approaches were not successful, regulatory approaches would need to be considered.