Former WA Health Minister Barry Hodge honoured as tobacco control champion

6 December 2019

The Honourable Barry Hodge, former WA Health Minister, has been named this year’s winner of the prestigious Dr Bob Elphick Medal.

The award was presented to Mr Hodge by the Honourable Roger Cook MLA, Deputy Premier; Minister for Health; Mental Health, in Perth today.

“It is no exaggeration to say that Barry Hodge was the first Australian Health Minister of the modern era to understand and act on evidence-based health promotion,” said Roger Cook.

“He commissioned a series of reports on priorities for health promotion. And he nailed his colours firmly to the mast of tobacco control:

    • He introduced a Bill to prohibit the advertising and promotion of tobacco in WA
    • Implemented the first major increase in state tobacco tax, with an allocation for a new Smoking and Health Project.
    • Committed sustainable funding for a program that speedily became Australia’s leading Quit campaign – with a range of innovative ads and campaigns.
    • Through his role in the Australian Health Ministers Council, Barry led pressure for action nationally to curb tobacco advertising.
    • He led action that resulted in the introduction nationally of the first effective health warnings on cigarette packets
    • He supported moves for smoke free areas
    • And – as we have since learned from once confidential tobacco industry documents – the industry identified him early as a major problem.”

Big Tobacco ran a massive media and lobbying campaign against Barry Hodge and his work to reduce smoking.

“As far back as April 1983, a confidential British American Tobacco company report stated that “…the new Health Minister (Barry Hodge) is out to get the industry and will waste no time in trying to do so.

“Barry’s commitment to tobacco control, funding for campaigns and push for legislation had a significant impact – but even more important paved the way for all future efforts in tobacco control in Western Australia and nationally, and the dramatic declines we have seen in smoking since then,” said Roger Cook.

Barry Hodge said he had no regrets in taking on Big Tobacco and would do it again tomorrow if he had the opportunity.

“There’s little point in taking up a position in politics if you aren’t willing to make brave decisions for the good of the community,” said Mr Hodge.

In the early 1980s, one third of adults and one quarter of 12 to 17-year-olds were smokers. The latest 2017 Health Department surveys recorded daily adult smokers at 9.3% and less than 5% for 12 to 17-year-olds.

The Elphick Medal is awarded annually in memory of Dr Bob Elphick, a pioneering chest physician who was President of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health from its inception in 1971 and remained a driving force in tobacco control and advocacy throughout his life.

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Media contact: Maurice Swanson, ACOSH Chief Executive, 0401 090 915