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Province Launches First Ever Awareness Campaign to Reduce Smoking Among Aboriginal Peoples

by NationTalk on January 25, 2007719 Views

“What You Do Matters” Is First Aboriginal-Specific Quit Smoking Campaign

TORONTO, Jan. 25 – The government of Ontario is launching “What You Do Matters,” a public awareness campaign aimed at encouraging members of the Aboriginal community to quit smoking, Minister of Health Promotion Jim Watson announced today.

“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and we’re determined to work with Aboriginal communities to make a difference,” said Watson “The “What You Do Matters” campaign is a call to action for each individual, family and community to help improve their health environment and the quality of life for all Aboriginal peoples.” The campaign consists of 30-second radio announcements, print ads in targeted publications, posters distributed in Band offices, Friendship Centres, Health Centres and other gathering places. Pamphlets and fact sheets are available to Aboriginal communities and the media. Additional information is available at www.ontario.ca/SmokefreeMatters.

The rate of smoking among Aboriginal peoples can be three times the provincial average. Tobacco-related diseases cost the Ontario health care system at least $1.7 billion annually, result in more than $2.6 billion in productivity losses, and account for at least 500,000 hospital days each year.

Anishinabek Nation’s Grand Council Chief John Beaucage supports the public awareness objective of the campaign.

“The Anishinabek Nation is committed to reducing the non-traditional use of tobacco and the health burdens from the misuse of tobacco amongst its citizens, says Chief Beaucage. “Our member communities have signalled this shared commitment by providing us with a mandate to develop an Anishinabek Nation Smoke-Free Strategy to encourage and promote the use of Anishinabek First Nation initiatives aimed at reducing non-traditional tobacco use and creating smoke free environments within Anishinabek territory.”

“We will continue to work with the province where our Strategy and Anishinabek First Nation initiatives share common goals and objectives. This is an issue that affects the health of children, and healthy children are our future.”

Minister Watson also announced that the Ontario government is providing $230,000 to Cancer Care Ontario for organizing an Aboriginal Tobacco Strategy Youth Summit in March 2007. The Summit will be the first ever Aboriginal youth-specific smoke-free event sponsored by Ontario. The overall goal of the Summit is to increase awareness of the harm caused by commercial tobacco in Aboriginal communities, and engage youth in developing action plans.

This funding is part of an annual investment of $2 million under the Smoke-Free Ontario Strategy to help Aboriginal communities break the cycle of smoking addiction. The Ontario government also invests $8.8 million in programs to prevent youth from using tobacco products.

“The alarmingly high rate of commercial tobacco use by Aboriginal youth compared to national youth demonstrates a need for specific campaigns to raise awareness about the difference between traditional tobacco and commercial tobacco use,” said Dr. John McLaughlin, vice president, preventive oncology, Cancer Care Ontario. “The government’s investment in the Aboriginal Tobacco Strategy Youth Summit is a critical step to reaching Aboriginal youth about the harms of smoking and taking action to prevent or stop Aboriginal youth from smoking commercial tobacco.”

Ontarians can learn about the dangers of tobacco and get tips on how to quit smoking from January 21-27, which is National Non-Smoking Week in Canada. This week is a great chance for all Ontarians to quit smoking or to support friends, family members and colleagues who are making the important decision to quit.

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For further information: Adam Grachnik, Minister’s Office, (416) 326-8497; Julie Rosenberg, Communications Branch, (416) 326-4833

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