QUIT NOW: A new four year program will tackle Indigenous smokers head on so rates keep falling.
QUIT NOW: A new four year program will tackle Indigenous smokers head on so rates keep falling. Lee Constable

Program to tackle Indigenous smokers head on

A NEW anti-smoking program aimed at Indigenous citizens is about to be rolled out across the region.

Member for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, said the campaign is the advance guard of Australia's first four-year Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) program.

"Together we are making progress in reducing smoking rates but tobacco is still claiming the lives of far too many local Indigenous people,” he said.

"Smoking is responsible for 20 per cent of preventable deaths and more than ten per cent of the health problems encountered by our Indigenous communities.”

Part of the commitment to Closing The Gap in health inequality, Mr Hartsuyker said the program provides certainty and continuity for proven local campaigns to reduce the devastating impacts of tobacco-related disease.

"Galambila Aboriginal Health Service currently runs TIS projects right across the Mid North Coast, covering the local government areas of Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Nambucca, Macleay and Port Macquarie-Hastings.

"While existing and proposed local TIS projects will have to apply for the new funding, we know the new four-year program will build on successes and provide security for people working in the campaigns and for local communities.

"We will also invite new initiatives with more than $6 million in extra funding to tackle smoking among pregnant women and people living in remote areas.

"Rates among these groups remain worryingly high.”

The revamped TIS program will continue the successful local Regional Tobacco Control grants scheme including school and community education, smoke-free homes and workplaces and quit groups.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics report on Indigenous smoking shows significant declines in overall rates with an average 2.1 percent annual drop since targeted interventions began in 2008.

"The good news is on average our young Indigenous people are really reducing their smoking with the number high school children trying tobacco down nearly 50 per cent,

"Quit rates are also up and there is evidence the amount of heart problems from smoking among older people is already dropping.

"It's vital we keep the local momentum going.”