Opening of Smokefree Coalition's Youth Smoking symposiumAssociate Minister of Health
Kia ora, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to open this symposium - yet another forum this week for promoting the smokefree concept to New Zealanders, especially young New Zealanders.
As you are doubtless aware, I was proud earlier this week to launch the National Smoking Cessation Mass Communications Campaign.
For the next three years, a series of consistent, in-your-face, messages will be broadcast and printed in mass and specialist media.
I had hoped that the Member's bill being promoted by Tukuroirangi Morgan, the MP for Te Tai Hauauru, would have been debated in Parliament this week, but its time has yet to come.
His Bill, which seeks to strengthen the Smokefree Environments Act by extending the bans on smoking into educational premises, is particularly relevant to this symposium.
If we can get the smoking plague out of our schools, our polytechnics and our universities, we will go a great deal along the way towards greatly improving the health of this nation.
This week has been a great week for showing that you can demonstrate anything with statistics.
As you are aware, the Coalition came out with a survey this week about youth smoking statistics and expressed great alarm about the depressing picture they revealed of rising tobacco consumption amongst teenagers.
Yet the Ministry of Health looked at the same survey and expressed great satisfaction at the decline in the rate of consumption.
Which is right?
It seemed to me that the Coalition was reacting to a rising trend from 1992 to 1997, while the Ministry focused on the trend from 1997 to 1998 which showed the rate declining.
I don't want to get into that debate because I think it takes our attention away from the real aim. If we spend our time fretting over graphs, we are not combating the constant efforts of the tobacco companies to spread their pernicious products among our young people.
In recent times, we have seen the rise of sponsored prominent shelving in corner dairies with massive packs of cigarettes, designed to shove cigarettes in the faces of all the customers, including youngsters.
We have seen the importing of lollies, shaped like cigarettes, packaged like cigarettes and intended for nothing more than getting our children used to smoking.
There is the real battlefield. I urge you to focus on that.
Ladies and gentlemen, I see you have a busy schedule today so I won't detain you longer.
Best wishes for your symposium. I wish you well in your endeavours.
I am happy to declare this symposium open.