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Smoking is the single greatest preventable cause of premature death and disease in Australia.1 In 1998 approximately 19 000 deaths in Australia were attributable to the use of tobacco.2 Almost 10% of the total burden of disease in Australia in 1996 was estimated to be attributable to tobacco smoking.3 After consistent declines in the prevalence of smoking from around 60% of men and 30% of women in the early 1960s,4 this reduction appeared to stall in the early 1990s at around 27% of men and 23% of women.5
Australia is a federal system in which responsibilities for funding and delivery of therapeutic and preventive health services is shared between national and State jurisdictions. Statewide tobacco control campaigns were initially developed in Australia by some State jurisdictions during the early 1980s. Since then, campaigns have been developed and implemented within Australian States and Territories as part of increasingly comprehensive tobacco control programmes. In addition to this, the Federal government and a range of non-government organisations have also undertaken tobacco control campaign activity.
Despite steady reductions in tobacco use in the 1980s and early 1990s, workers in the tobacco control field became concerned by the mid-1990s about an apparent stalling of the previously declining prevalence of smoking. The field was calling for new initiatives to restore tobacco to prominence on the public health agenda. Before her party lost office in 1995, the Federal Health Minister Dr Carmen Lawrence set aside funds for a research effort to reduce smoking in the community. In 1996, the new Federal Health Minister Dr Michael Wooldridge made a firm commitment to increase measures to reduce smoking prevalence in Australia. The Federal government recognised the potential gains that could be derived from pooling the extensive tobacco control knowledge and resources throughout Australia to …
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