‘Disgusting and inappropriate’: Greg Hunt unleashes on tobacco companies

3 January 2022

By Catie McLeod, Source: News.com.au

The Health Minister has slammed tobacco companies for being ‘disgusting and inappropriate’ in targeting a particular group.

Greg Hunt has attacked tobacco companies which he says are being “disgusting and inappropriate” by targeting Indigenous Australians and encouraging them to smoke.

The Health Minister on Monday said rates of smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were three times that of the national average.

“This is a particular blight and a particular scourge on Indigenous Australians and to those tobacco companies that are targeting Indigenous Australians – stop,” he told reporters.

“It’s disgusting. It’s deadly. And, frankly, it’s completely inappropriate.”

Mr Hunt said about 19,000 Australians lose their lives each year because of smoking related conditions, with lung cancer contributing to about half of those deaths.

“And so it puts into perspective, some of the tragedy we’ve seen in the last year (with Covid-19),” he said.

He referred to the $188m in funding the Morrison government announced last week to extend the “tackling Indigenous Smoking” program for another four years.

The funding boost forms part of the government’s commitment to reduce smoking rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to 27 per cent or less by 2030 — from 37 per cent in 2018-19.

Mr Hunt said the program had already helped bring down the proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over who were daily smokers from 50 per cent in 2004-05.

“Smoking is a factor in 37 per cent of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths,” he said.

“Reducing smoking rates is a simple and effective way to save and protect lives.”

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt said the scheme, which was due to expire early this year, had helped Aboriginal communities take the lead on reducing their smoking rates.

“Since 2010, the TIS program has been providing culturally appropriate activities and messages to stop young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people taking up smoking, and help established smokers to quit,” he said.

“Thanks to TIS and broader tobacco control measures, community attitudes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are changing and smoking rates are steadily falling.”