The U.S. government's campaign to help smokers quit (and keep kids from starting the nasty habit) has led to calls to quit lines more than doubling. The main mind behind the campaign, Dr. Howard Koh, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health, has been a force on the anti-smoking front for 20 years. He was involved in everything from the proposal to put highly graphic images on cigarette packaging and the movement to expand health insurance coverage for tobacco cessation.
While he’s been doing that, Australia’s Attorney General Nicola Roxon has also been hard at work trying to end the world’s fascination with cigarettes. While she was Health Minister in Australia, she launched the idea that all cigarette packs in the country should be sold in plain brown paper, which of course sent the legal departments of tobacco companies into a tizzy. As Attorney General, she is requiring that graphic warnings cover the large majority of the packs.
For their efforts, Koh and Roxon are being recognized at event in Washington, D.C. held by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which works to counter tobacco brands' marketing and frowns on advertising such as characters and other kid-friendly touches, such as Camel's pinkalicious print campaign at right.
"Howard Koh and Nicola Roxon are true champions in the fight to reduce tobacco use and save lives," said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a press release. "As Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Koh is leading a reinvigorated national drive to end the tobacco epidemic in the United States. As Australia's Attorney-General and former Health Minister, Nicola Roxon has provided visionary leadership as Australia became the first country to require that cigarettes be sold in plain packaging. We are proud to honor these brave pioneers in the fight against tobacco."
Australia’s latest battle is against British American Tobacco Australia, which has started to market low-cost cigarettes. This tactic has Australian Health Minister Tanya Plibersek highly concerned. "We know that smokers are very price sensitive and we know that the most price-sensitive smokers are teenagers," she said, according to GlobalPost.com. "Young people who are just starting to smoke are more likely to smoke if cigarettes are cheaper."
"Every time the Government has introduced something like plain packaging, like graphic health warnings, like increasing excise, they've [tobacco companies] said these measures won't work to reduce smoking rates,” Plibersek said. "[But] they have worked to reduce smoking rates."
Whatever is being done in America seems to be having some effect. A new government study shows that fewer U.S. tens and young adults are taking up cigarettes, according to WebMD. The number of adolescents aged 12 to 17 who have smoked cigarettes during the month of the survey has dropped from 12% back in 2004 to 8.3% in 2010. Those aged 18 to 25 also had a dropoff over that same period, going from almost 40% to 34%.
"Although some progress has been made in curbing youth smoking, the fact remains that one in twelve adolescents currently smoke and one in three young adults smoke, which means far too many young adults are still endangering their lives," one of the researchers said, WebMD notes.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has its work cut out for it — good thing it's honoring youth advocates at its 2012 awards, too, along with an inspiring local leader: Dr. Veronica Schoj, Executive Director of the InterAmerican Heart Foundation Argentina (FIC Argentina) and past coordinator of the Argentina Smoke-free Alliance (ALIAR). Click here for more information on the organization's 2012 award recipients.