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ASH butts out

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The AMA has paid tribute to the achievements of campaign group Action on Smoking and Health, which is shutting down after 20 years of anti-smoking advocacy.
The group, which has worked closely with the AMA for many years, has been at the forefront of efforts to reduce smoking since its inception in 1994, making a significant contribution to driving Australia’s smoking rates down to among the lowest in the world.
The proportion of men smoking has fallen by almost a third since ASH was founded, from around 28 per cent in 1995 to 20.4 per cent in 2011-12. Among women, about 22 per cent were lighting up in 1995, compared with 16.3 per cent in 2011-12.
In a statement announcing its disbandment, the ASH Board of Directors declared that “smoking rates in Australian adults and children are at their lowest ever levels, in large part because of the combined efforts of ASH, Cancer Councils, the Heart Foundation and others”.
Anti-smoking measures taken in the past two decades include bans on smoking in workplaces and public venues, regulations to include graphic health warnings on tobacco products, extensive Quit advertising campaigns and last year’s world-first plain packaging laws for tobacco products.
The ASH Board of Directors said the organisation was formed by the progenitors of Cancer Council Australia and the Heart Foundation to fill a perceived gap in tobacco control efforts, and added that this was no longer the case.
It said both organisations now attached a “high priority to the many aspects of tobacco control”.
“ASH’s invaluable work in advocating for policy reform in tobacco control will continue through Australia’s well connected network of agencies dedicated to driving smoking rates down even further,” it said.
In recent years, ASH has been a co-sponsor, with the AMA and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, of the annual Dirty Ashtray Award, presented at the AMA National Conference to the State or Territory judged to have done the least to advance tobacco control.
AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said that, through events such as the Dirty Ashtray Award, ASH had done much to wean millions of Australians off the smoking habit.
“The AMA and ASH cooperated on numerous campaigns to highlight the health effects of smoking and expose the dirty tricks used by the tobacco industry to encourage people to maintain or take up the killer habit,” Dr Hambleton said.
The AMA President congratulated ASH on “its tireless efforts to improve public health in Australia and wishes its staff, especially outgoing long-serving CEO Anne Jones, all the best in their future endeavours”.
After serving almost 20 years with ASH, Ms Jones is to be a consultant to the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.
Adrian Rollins