AFN National Chief calls on government for commitment to First Nations Tobacco Reduction Strategy



    OTTAWA, Feb. 23 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief
Phil Fontaine said today that he hopes the Government of Canada's recent
announcement to commit more than $472,000 in federal funds over two years to
tobacco cessation programs for Inuit youth will lead to a renewed commitment
to restore similar projects for First Nations youth.
    Since the First Nations and Inuit Tobacco Control Strategy (FNITCS) was
cancelled in October 2006, there has been no tobacco control strategy for
First Nations peoples, who have some of the highest rates of smoking in the
country.
    "There is an urgent need to reduce the use of tobacco for non-traditional
purposes among First Nations youth. More than 50 percent of First Nations
adults engage in smoking. With half of our people under the age of 25, if this
trend continues unchecked, tobacco-related diseases will become an even more
significant cause of death amongst First Nations and represent a tremendous
future burden on Canada's health care system," National Chief Fontaine said.
    The National Chief added that the AFN is currently working on a new
tobacco control strategy.
    "We see the federal government's commitment to new programs targeting
Inuit youth as a positive sign that similar programs targeting First Nations
youth can also be restored," said Regional Chief Angus Toulouse, who holds the
health portfolio.
    The FNITCS was cut midway through its fifth year and before a final
evaluation report was completed. However evidence from the First Nations
Regional Longitudinal Health Survey (RHS) showed that during the first years
of the program non-traditional smoking rates among First Nations adults had
declined from 62% in 1997 to 56.9 % in 2002-03.
    On November 23, 2006, former Minister of Health Tony Clement told the
House of Commons Standing Committee on Health that funding for the program
would be restored through a new and improved strategy. To date funding has not
been restored.
    The AFN is working on a new strategy that will include: increasing
awareness of the harmful impacts of the non-traditional use of tobacco,
especially among youth, and increasing the capacity of individuals to address
second-hand smoke exposure by reducing the non-traditional use of tobacco
among families and communities as well as building the capacity for monitoring
of data concerning tobacco consumption.

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.




For further information:

For further information: Karyn Pugliese, Health Communications, Assembly
of First Nations, (613) 241-6789, ext. 210, Cell: (613) 292-1877,
kpugliese@afn.ca


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