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Tuesday, February 16

New Zealand hosts a World Health Organisation meeting


New Zealand is hosting a World Health Organisation meeting, opening tomorrow in Auckland, aimed at promoting people to quit smoking across more than 160 countries.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the first international treaty of the WHO. The treaty is now managed by the United Nations and with 168 signatories including the European Community, it is the most widely embraced in the United Nations' history.

The four-day meeting is for a special working group of seventy countries, set up to spearhead the development of scientifically-based guidelines to promote and support people to quit smoking and providing the best ways to treat tobacco dependence.

"I am really proud that New Zealand is stepping up to the mark, in terms of demonstrating our support to encourage people to quit smoking" said Hon Tariana Turia, Associate Minister of Health with delegated responsibility for tobacco control and prevention.

"In New Zealand, providing better help for people to quit smoking is one of the Government's six health targets" said Mrs Turia.

"This meeting is an opportunity for New Zealand to show our support for this global network of countries and organisations committed to improving people's health by reducing the harm done by tobacco use," Minister Turia said.

Ministry of Health Tobacco Control National Programme Manager Karen Evison said New Zealand had an important contribution to make because we were already implementing the ‘ABC Approach to Smoking Cessation'.

The ABC Approach involves health professional including doctors and nurses in hospitals and in the community as well as other health professionals Asking people if they smoking, Giving Brief advice about quitting and providing Cessation support.

"It's a simple formula with a powerful potential. It's about mobilising the existing health workforce and giving them the help to include smoking cessation into their every day practice," Mrs Evison said.

The ABC Approach had potential to be used in other countries where resources were limited because it involved working with the existing health workforce and systems," Mrs Evison said.

The Framework Convention is a response to the globalisation of the tobacco epidemic and the harm it is inflicting. Globally it is estimated that tobacco use kills 5.4 million people each year. In New Zealand tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality, accounting for an estimated 5000 deaths every year.

Delegates from about 60 countries and international organisations will be in Auckland for the meeting. The meeting proceedings are being translated into French and Spanish.