Promoting a tobacco free society

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Office of Tobacco Control Welcomes Merger with Health Service Executive

News Release, 01 July 2010.

Issued by the Office of Tobacco Control

OTC Chair says move will ensure that work for a tobacco-free society stays at the heart of public health

The board of the Office of Tobacco Control (OTC) has today (01/07/2010) welcomed the Government’s decision to merge the OTC into the HSE in 2011 as part of the Government’s ongoing rationalisation programme.

The OTC’s Chairperson, Norma Cronin, said that this move will ensure that Ireland’s ongoing work to create a tobacco-free society – in which Ireland is a world leader – will stay at the heart of public health.

“It is crucial that tobacco control ranks as a top priority for political and public health leaders and we believe that the new HSE-based Office of Tobacco Control will reflect that priority. In this context, it is essential that the new OTC is properly resourced with a clearly identifiable profile.”

Ms Cronin said that the OTC already has many strong linkages with the HSE.

“For a number of years now, the OTC has been working closely with the HSE’s Environmental Health Services through the National Inspection Programme. The merger announced today will enable this work to continue and provide opportunities to deliver further effective tobacco control measures in the years ahead.

“It is essential that the new Office of Tobacco Control continues to play a key role in the development of policy and strategy in tobacco control through a strong research programme. Furthermore, significant investment is needed in comprehensive sustained social marketing campaigns to raise greater awareness of the health impacts of tobacco use, benefits of quitting and the resources and supports available to help people quit.”

Tobacco use is the leading cause of premature death and ill-health in Ireland with 6,000 deaths each year from tobacco related diseases. Norma Cronin emphasised that the battle to protect people against the scourge of tobacco is a long term one.

“Repeated surveys over the last ten years show a slow but definite decline in the number of young people smoking. However, overall population smoking rates from the 2007 Slán survey indicate smoking prevalence of 29 per cent. This rate is high by international standards and in fact much higher than England. We need to build on our ground breaking legislation and examine other actions to deliver reduced smoking rates and a decrease in tobacco related deaths.”

In this regard Ms Cronin welcomed the recent announcement by the Department of Health and Children of its plans for a strategic review of tobacco policy to be undertaken as a priority.

Ms Cronin explained that the OTC was established in 2001 as part of the process of implementing the Government’s strategy Towards a Tobacco-Free Society – a strategy that has been ground-breaking in global terms.

“In March 2004, Ireland became the first country in the world to successfully introduce smoke-free workplaces legislation which has already conferred huge health and environmental benefits on the population as a whole. Many countries across the world have looked to Ireland as an example and have since followed suit.”

“Following this, Ireland introduced a suite of further tobacco control measures principally focused on reducing the number of young people starting to smoke. These included the removal of ten packs from sale in 2007, the removal of point of sale advertising in retail outlets and the introduction of a register of tobacco retailers in 2009.”

“In recent years the OTC has, together with other health organisations, worked for significant increases in the price of cigarettes – a key measure in deterring young people from taking up smoking in the first place – and has also closely monitored sales of cigarettes to minors leading to higher levels of compliance with the law among retailers.”

Looking forward, Norma Cronin said that the OTC will be working closely with the Department of Health and Children and the HSE to ensure a successful transition to the new HSE-based Office of Tobacco Control. She also explained that the commitment of many groups across society to tobacco control will continue to be important in 2011 and beyond.

“Key to the success of tobacco control in Ireland has been the major support of civil society organisations like the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Heart Foundation, ASH, the trade union movement, youth and children’s groups, as well as health professionals and politicians of all parties. In this context, it’s worth noting that tobacco control policy has enjoyed cross-party support and it is essential that this continues,” Norma Cronin concluded.

Ends

FURTHER INFORMATION

Ronan Cavanagh, Montague Communications: 01 830 3116 or 086 317 9731.

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