ACT Labor to take more action on tobacco, alcohol and drugs

On average, Canberrans are the best educated, best paid and healthiest people in Australia. We enjoy relatively good health overall.

ACT Labor continues to invest in the health and wellbeing of all Canberrans.  Right now we are investing $1.3 billion to make our health system even stronger and deliver health care where and when it’s needed.

Canberrans have the highest average life expectancy at birth in Australia for both males and females, we are less likely than other Australians to smoke and generally avoid other risky behaviour.

We lead the nation on childhood immunisation for all children at 12 months and 5 years.

But there remain some in our community who continue to suffer disadvantage and people affected by the harms caused by alcohol and other drugs. The drugs responsible for the most harm in our community are alcohol and tobacco.

ACT Labor understands it is important to tackle the underlying causes of the harmful use of drugs which may include trauma, marginalisation, family experience, and physical, mental and emotional ill-health.

We recognise that health services are just one piece of the puzzle and that other services like housing, counselling, education and training, help people overcome their drug problems.

We have released an Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Strategy 2010-2014 to help inform the direction of health services in the ACT.

We are committed to developing policies that are evidence-based, minimise harm in our community, and improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and the wider community and there is more to do.

 

A re-elected, ACT Labor will take more action on smoking by increasing the number of smoke-free public places and provide $800,000 in funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking cessation programs.

New services will be provided for people affected by alcohol with $1.4 million to establish an alcohol and drug outpatient service.

 

Policy costings

ACT Labor to take more action on tobacco, alcohol and drugs

Policy

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

Total $m

Aboriginal

Smoking

Cessation

$0.200m

$0.206m

$0.212m

$0.219m

$0.837m

Outpatient alcohol and

drug services

$0.150m

$0.309m

$0.477m

$0.492m

$1.428m

Total

$0.35m

$0.515m

$0.689m

$0.711

$2.265m

What we are already doing

ACT Labor has already taken considerable steps to protect the community from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke and to discourage the uptake of smoking.   These include restrictions on smoking at health facilities, schools, restaurants and bars, outdoor drinking and eating areas, and in cars carrying children. We have restricted the way tobacco is sold and marketed, and promoted smoking cessation programs in our community.

In addition to education, we have also undertaken substantial reforms to reduce alcohol-related harm and violence through new liquor laws and risk-based licensing of nightspots, new regulatory powers allowing police to deal promptly with alcohol- related incidents, and more police on the beat to enforce those changes.

We also want to reduce the spread of blood-borne viruses in our community. We have recently released a comprehensive blood-borne virus management strategy for Corrections and announced, as part of that, a trial equipment exchange program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre to reduce the prevalence and spread of the disease. We have also supported a trial to expand the availability of naloxone to help reduce deaths associated with opioid overdoses.  As part of the program, 200 participants will be trained in the administration of naloxone which temporarily reverses the effects of heroin and other opiate drugs and save lives.

The ACT Labor Government has been willing to take these difficult decisions where there is evidence that these will deliver public health benefits. It is important that we continue this work.

What places will become smoke free?

We have identified further places where we would like to reduce environmental tobacco smoke exposure. Over the next term we will focus on pursuing restrictions on smoking, or improving public awareness of existing no smoking policies, at:

•    Public swimming pools;

•    public playgrounds;

•    sporting fields when children are present;

•    covered bus interchanges;

•    university campuses;

•    building entrances; and

•    large public gatherings and outdoor events.

Why are we taking further action on smoking?

By prohibiting smoking at places where children frequent, such as playgrounds and sporting fields, we can minimise their exposure to environmental tobacco smoke which can be particularly harmful to children due to their smaller lung capacity and body weight.

They also have limited capacity to make decisions that enable them to remove themselves from situations or areas where adults may be smoking. This is also about sending the right message to our youngest citizens to discourage them from taking up the habit in the first place.  Establishing a ten metre smoke-free zone around children’s playground equipment will help protect some of our most vulnerable citizens.  These initiatives are also aimed at protecting non-smokers.  Bus interchanges, for example, are places where people congregate and where bus patrons, including children, may be exposed to harmful tobacco smoke.

We also want to target young adults before they develop a nicotine addiction which is why ACT Labor will work with universities to implement new, or improve existing, smoke-free policies across their campuses.

With smoking banned indoors, those who continue to smoke move outside and often congregate around building entrances, exposing non-smokers as they enter and exit the buildings. We will move to implement a smoke-free zone around entrances, and to develop smoke-free policies for public events.

Additional alcohol and drug services

ACT Labor will provide $1.4m towards the establishment of an alcohol and drug outpatient service. This service will complement the services we already provide, such as the withdrawal unit and services in the community, as well as support the capacity of GPs and Alcohol and Other Drugs service providers to assist people with alcohol and drug problems in the ACT.

An outpatient service has effectively been the ‘missing link’ in the suite of services provided by the Government and community sector and ACT Labor wants to fill this service gap.

What are current levels of alcohol and drug use in Canberra?

The latest Chief Health Officer’s report found that about 30% of the ACT adult

population drink alcohol at levels considered to be harmful with more males engaging in higher risk drinking than females. The amount of alcohol consumed by males aged 18 to 34 was of particular concern.

The report also shows that about 14% of ACT residents aged over 14 years had used an illicit drug in the previous 12 months.  Again, males are more likely to have taken illicit drugs than females.  The harm caused by alcohol and drug misuse can be significant and can impact on family members, friends and colleagues.

Why is more investment needed?

ACT Labor wants to promote a healthy and safe Canberra through preventing and reducing alcohol and other drug related harm.

Harm minimisation represents a three-pillared approach including supply reduction, demand reduction and harm minimisation, which aims to improve the health, social and economic wellbeing and outcomes for both individuals and the wider community.

This initiative builds on the work we have been doing to provide more effective services for people experiencing alcohol addiction.  For instance, we recognise the importance of integrating alcohol and drug services with mental health services and have integrated these two areas of health providing alcohol and drug assessments for clients admitted

to the Adult Mental Health Unit and wards at the Canberra Hospital. We also have specialist workers providing support for clients with both Alcohol and other drug and mental health issues (comorbidity).

Drug and alcohol education in schools is also an important part of preventing addiction. We provide a police early diversion program for people apprehended for the possession of a small amount of illicit drugs. This provides a pathway into health services rather than the criminal justice system and referral to appropriate services including education and counselling, withdrawal, pharmacotherapy and residential rehabilitation.

What are the benefits of more action on smoking, alcohol and drugs?

Prevention is far better than cure.  By reducing rates of smoking and passive smoking, and supporting people to address alcohol and drug addictions, we will have a healthier, more productive community.  This will benefit individuals through improved health and wellbeing, less disability and disease, and increased life expectancy.

The broader community and the economy will also benefit through increased productivity and participation in work and recreation activities, and reduced pressure on our public hospital system.