The Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation has issued a rallying cry to the communities of Australia’s far west, urging them to engage in a new battle against Big Tobacco’s insidious influence.
The call comes as part of a renewed push to counter the devastating health impact of smoking and the rising trend of vaping, particularly among the youth.
The corporation’s appeal, voiced by Chief Executive Officer, Richard Weston, arrives on World No Tobacco Day – that’s Wednesday May 31 – a global event designed to highlight the health and other risks associated with tobacco use.
“Health authorities are now reporting that 99% of vapes in Australia contain nicotine, and they are being marketed towards our young people – the next generation of smokers for Big Tobacco,” Mr Weston says.
He said there is an urgent need to not only support those trying to quit smoking but to also protect our young from the health damage caused by vaping.
The appeal follows the federal government’s recent introduction of regulations to prohibit selling vapes to anyone under the age of 18.
Mr Weston stressed the collective responsibility of communities, saying, “it’s our duty to ensure young people know vaping is harmful, and those selling vapes to minors need to be stopped”.
He criticised Big Tobacco’s targeting of the next generation of smokers with attractive, sweet-smelling, coloured and flavoured vapes laden with highly addictive nicotine, which he says is a direct response to the impact of Australia’s stern regulations on cigarette sales.
According to the Maari Ma’s Tackling Indigenous Smoking team, schools have reported an alarming rise in vaping among students, forcing staff to confiscate vapes.
“What our kids don’t understand is that vapes do contain nicotine and more than a third of them are likely to get addicted and then move on to smoking cigarettes.”
Although smoking rates have fallen in metropolitan Australia to roughly 12%, they remain stubbornly high in more remote parts of the country, including in our region where rates approach 20%, and are often even higher among Aboriginal people.
“Maari Ma staff are trained to support smokers in a quit attempt and to keep their homes and cars smoke-free. We are ready to support our community to kick the addiction and prevent our children from becoming the next generation of smokers through vaping,” he said.
He says the entire community has a role to play in addressing this health crisis, underlining the cooperative effort needed to combat the influence of Big Tobacco and the rise in vaping.