Speeches

Speech by Mr. Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children on the occasion of the launch of “NICO´S CRIB” as part of the National Smoking Cessation Campaign

Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon to you all

Introduction

I am delighted that you have been able to join me for the launch of the next phase of my Department’s focused and comprehensive smoking cessation campaign – NICO´S CRIB.

The disturbing figure of Nico is returning to our screens in an effort to prevent and reduce the levels of smoking in the young population of Ireland.

SLÁN Report 2002

The 2002 SLÁN survey reports that smoking rates in Ireland are on the decline across almost all age groups and social groupings, falling from 31% in 1998 to 27% in 2002. More recent evidence suggests that this rate is falling even further. Among school going children, 19% reported that they are current smokers down from 21% in 1998 and rates have dropped most particularly in the key 12 to14 year age group, suggesting the possibility of delayed initiation; a key part of any successful health promotion strategy.

However, there is still a worrying trend in relation to the recruitment of young smokers who are lured into smoking cigarettes for all sorts of reasons including experimentation and peer pressure.

15 to17 year old males, in particular, showed cause for concern as this was the only group that reported growth in the area of smoking in the most recent SLÁN survey.

We know that eight out of ten adult smokers become addicted in their teenage years and it is therefore vital to develop campaigns targeted exclusively at young people now, in order to help reduce the prevalence of smoking in the future.

The Nico Rationale

In 1998 the incidence smoking among young girls was higher than that of young men. In response to this the Nico character was created and subsequently made his debut in 2000 as the odious hero of smoking. This repellent figure was seen encouraging teenage girls to buy his non-cosmetic products – in other words cigarettes- that would ultimately make them less attractive and appealing.

The rationale behind this approach is that young people have little fear of death or illness and a campaign that focused on long-term health messages would have little or no impact. Young people are more image conscious and by highlighting the immediate and unsightly impact of smoking on one’s skin, hair and teeth for example, was a much stronger and more meaningful way of highlighting the dangers of smoking. Post campaign research validated our decision and this award-winning campaign achieved excellent levels of awareness with easy to understand messages that were relevant to this key target market.

Nico’s Crib

NICO´s Crib is the latest offering from the Nico stable. It was developed in Ireland and is based on the MTV hit programme called CRIBS. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the CRIBS phenomenon, CRIBS is a fly on the wall tour of the homes of pop stars and actors and is hosted by the celebrities themselves.

The viewers, mainly teenagers, get a behind the scenes tour of the private homes of the rich and famous. We are introduced to their pets, their kitchens, the food they like to eat, the clothes they love to wear, and even their bedrooms.

This new advertisement, which will be shown to you shortly, is based in Nico´s very own Crib – in other words Nico´s house.

Exhausted models lie by the pool deprived of energy from smoking; cool guys attempt to play basketball but are just too breathless to make an effort. Meanwhile, Nico is delighted with his conquests and revels in the destruction and damage he has bestowed on the beautiful young people, and all the while, tobacco smoke fills the air.

The advertisement, which takes a sophisticated, cinematic approach, demonstrates real youth credibility by aligning itself with one of the most popular programmes on TV. Nico´s Crib will be broadcast, primarily in cinemas, from this week and will be supported by TV bursts and a promotional campaign.

Nico follows the hard-hitting campaign, launched in October 2003, Every Cigarette is Doing You Damage. That particular campaign, which was primarily aimed at adults, was one of our most successful smoking cessation campaigns ever, achieving almost blanket nationwide awareness and driving over 20,000 calls to the National Smokers Quitline.

Monday the 31st May marks World No Tobacco Day and I would urge all smokers to use this day to seriously consider the benefits of giving up and to take the opportunity of starting a smoke-free life.

Smoke Free at Work

I would like to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate everyone who has been so supportive of the smoke-free at work measure, introduced almost two months ago, and already reporting exceptional levels of acceptance and compliance. I am indebted to all of the smoking cessation support groups without which much of what has been achieved might not have been possible. Whilst we have not conducted any scientific research at this early stage, anecdotal evidence reports compliance in the region of 90 – 95%. I am truly grateful to everyone, smokers and non smokers alike, for getting behind this measure and ensuring that Ireland can be proud to become the first smoke-free in the workplace country in the world.

Regional Initiatives – Smoke-Free Carlow

I am delighted to welcome a number of young people from Borris Vocational School. They are representing a wonderful project underway in County Carlow called Smoke-Free Carlow.

In essence, it is a five-year smoking prevention and education programme the aim of which is to delay and prevent the onset of smoking in young people in Co. Carlow. Over 650 students have been involved in the project since 1999 and the project began when these children were in 4th class in primary school and will continue until they complete second year in secondary school.

The rationale of Smoke-Free Carlow, which is an excellent model for other areas, was to intervene before attitudes and behaviours in relation to smoking were fully developed. In addition, the programme supports these young people during the critical transition years from primary school to secondary school, a time when many experiment with smoking.

In addition to highlighting the health risks, the project focuses on developing children’s confidence and skills to help them resist the temptation to smoke. The project will be completed at the end of the school year and will be evaluated early next year.

This is a first rate initiative and I congratulate all of you on your success and determination.

I would also like to welcome the pupils from the CUS School on Leeson Street, I hope that Nico has the desired effect to help you make the decision not to start smoking.

Smoking Cessation Support

I am acutely aware that giving up smoking can be a difficult task and in addition to the promotion of smoking cessation it is important that smokers are supported during this period.

Under the Cardiovascular Health Strategy, smoking cessation services have trebled in the last three years so that today, Ireland has 50 smoking cessation officers providing support to smokers wishing to quit, as well as training health professionals in this area. Just over three years ago, I made nicotine replacement therapy available to all medical card-holders who smoke.

I would like to pay tribute to all those groups who are so dedicated and committed to the promotion of smoking cessation and supporting smokers trying to quit. In particular I wish to thank the National Smoking Cessation Action Plan Group consisting of representatives from the Health Boards, Irish Health Promoting Hospitals Network, the Office of Tobacco Control, the Irish Cancer Society; The Irish Heart Foundation; ASH Ireland; the Irish College of General Practitioners; the Dental Health Foundation; the Irish Pharmaceutical Union, the Health and Safety Authority and the many other groups and individuals who are making such a difference to thousands of lives.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, Nico is back, he has not gone away but his presence in Ireland is weakening.

I hope that we can continue to educate and promote a smoke-free lifestyle so that young people can ignore Nico´s influence and that ultimately, he will become extinct. However, before his demise, I will allow him the opportunity to introduce us to his own Crib.