Media release

AMA/ACOSH Dirty Ashtray Award 2014

Victoria has been awarded the 2014 Dirty Ashtray Award for its failure to act on proven tobacco control measures.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, announced that Victoria had won the Dirty Ashtray Award in a ceremony at the AMA National Conference in Canberra today.

“Smoking is a leading cause of premature death and disease, and one Government is virtually standing still on what is a vital public health issue,” Dr Hambleton said.

“The Victorian Government is the clear winner of the Dirty Ashtray Award, but that is nothing to celebrate. It is the only State or Territory in Australia to receive a C grading on the National Tobacco Scoreboard.”

Now in its 20th year, the National Tobacco Scoreboard Award goes to the State or Territory Government that has been the most effective in tobacco control in the past year, and the Dirty Ashtray Award goes to the Government that has put in the least effort. The Dirty Ashtray Award is presented by the AMA and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH) each year to put a spotlight on governments who have failed to do enough to protect people from passive smoking or to encourage smokers to give up the deadly habit.

“Until two days ago, the year’s Dirty Ashtray Award winner was a racing certainty,” Dr Hambleton said. “South Australia was the lowest scoring jurisdiction, attracting justified condemnation for cutting its successful tobacco control mass media campaigns – with a consequent drop in smokers seeking Quit advice – as well as failing to act to increase the number of smoke-free environments.”

“But I am pleased to say that on Wednesday, the South Australian Government restored tobacco control campaign funding and announced that a ban on smoking in alfresco dining areas would be introduced by July 2016.”

Dr Hambleton said the South Australian Government’s decision left Victoria as the clear national laggard when it came to tobacco control.

“Victoria lags behind all other jurisdictions in its failure to protect non-smokers,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Visitors to Victoria notice only too well that smoking is still permitted in many locations, including partially enclosed areas, alfresco dining areas, outdoor areas of licensed premises, entrances and exits to buildings, hospital grounds and areas adjacent to ventilation ducts.”

The AMA President said the Victorian Government had also been marked down for its failure to fund tobacco control messages for key groups including pregnant women, new mothers, and those with mental health problems.

Dr Hambleton said South Australia’s change of heart attested to the impact that the Annual Tobacco Scoreboard has.

“We know from past experience that no Government likes the criticism and publicity that go with the Dirty Ashtray Award. It may just be that Wednesday’s announcement was timed to save South Australia from this fate.

“Whatever the reason, the outcome is a good one for all, especially the health of South Australians.”

But Dr Hambleton warned that all governments would need to step up their commitment to tobacco control if they were to achieve the goals set out in the National Tobacco Strategy, which aims to drive the prevalence of smoking among adults down to 10 per cent by 2018.

“I urge all governments to ensure adequate investment in strong, comprehensive mass media-led campaigns to cut Australia’s smoking habit,” Dr Hambleton said.

Dr Hambleton said he hoped that the strong message sent out to governments through with the Dirty Ashtray Award and the National Tobacco Scoreboard Award would intensify efforts to encourage more people to quit the killer habit and stamp out smoking.

The results of the National Tobacco Scoreboard are summarised below.

23 May 2014

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Dirty Ashtray Award: Victoria - Grade C

Victoria is the clear winner of the Dirty Ashtray award. It is the only jurisdiction to receive a C grading.

For many years Victoria was seen as one of the leaders in tobacco control, with strong mass media and other programs, together with excellent smoking cessation support.

In recent times, however, Victoria has fallen behind the other jurisdictions in its failure to protect non-smokers. Smoking is still permitted in a wide range of locations, including partially enclosed areas, alfresco dining areas, outdoor areas of licensed premises, entrances and exits to buildings, areas adjacent to ventilation ducts and hospital grounds.

There is no targeted funding addressing smoking in people living with a mental illness, pregnant women or new mothers. The National Party – a state Coalition government partner – continues to accept tobacco industry donations.

The Victorian Government should be encouraged to restore the State to its former status as a national leader when it comes to tobacco control.

Achievement Awards: jointly awarded to Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania

There are two achievement awards - for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Tasmania.  Both received an “A” grade.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

The ACT has excellent legislation addressing exposure to passive smoking as well as comprehensive legislation on restrictions on tobacco marketing.  This was the first state/territory to divest government investments from the tobacco industry, and the Minister for Health does not meet with tobacco companies.  The ACT government does not accept donations or sponsorship from tobacco companies or allied interest groups.

The ACT prohibits all point of sale advertising, bans consumer rewards schemes for tobacco products and has further strong policies in place on tobacco sales, including bans on vending machines carrying tobacco products.

The ACT government has recently released a discussion paper considering limiting the number of retailer licences, restricting hours of cigarette sales and a substantial increase in license fees to sell tobacco.



Tasmania continues with a strong, comprehensive program to address the high prevalence of smoking in the state, including a new media campaign to complement strong legislation addressing passive smoking.

Tasmania has recognised the importance of reducing its high smoking prevalence in comparison with other jurisdictions, and has some of Australia’s best practice legislation banning smoking in enclosed public places and working places as well as outdoor and partly enclosed public places, public transport waiting areas and smoking in work vehicles.

Tasmania prohibits all point of sale advertising, with no exemptions and has comprehensive bans on retailer and customer reward schemes for tobacco products.


Other States/Territories

Northern Territory – Grade B

The Northern Territory has improved significantly over the years, and deserves credit for being the first jurisdiction to implement smoke-free prisons.  The Territory also deserves credit for good legislation around exposure to passive smoking and its commitment to substantial Aboriginal smoking projects and programs.

There is good legislation in areas such as point of sale advertising and increasing support for smoke-free measures.

The Northern Territory Government should be encouraged to ensure that government funds divest from the tobacco industry, and to end political donations from tobacco companies.


Western Australia – Grade B

The Western Australian Government has continued to maintain a comprehensive approach including strong media campaigns and protection against passive smoking, with recent support for interpretations of legislation that will permit the adoption of comprehensive smoke-free approaches to strata properties.

The Western Australian Government has made a commitment to further action across a range of areas. 

The government should be encouraged to remove the loophole permitting smoking in “beer gardens” on licensed premises and to end licenses for mobile sales outlets.


New South Wales – Grade B

The New South Wales Government has continued with a broad comprehensive approach to reducing smoking, and deserves special recognition as the only jurisdiction with specific legislation prohibiting political donations by the tobacco industry, as well as the decision to divest all direct and indirect tobacco investments across all government agencies.

There has been action to address smoking in some high risk populations including Aboriginal people, people experiencing mental illness and prisoners, with a commitment to implement smoke-free prisons by 2015 and to further address passive smoking in high density living areas. 

The reduced investment in public education mass media campaigns was disappointing and the government should be encouraged to return to strong investment in this important area, as well as to act on smoking in outdoor areas of licensed premises and some other partly enclosed public places.


Queensland – Grade B

Queensland deserves praise for a decision to implement comprehensive smoke-free prisons, together with legislation prohibiting smoking in cars with children accompanied by determined enforcement.

The Queensland Government also deserves praise for its recent decision to allocate significant funding to mass media campaigns on smoking.

Queensland’s outdoor smoking bans are marred by exceptions in licensed areas.  The government should be encouraged to act on this issue, as well as overall state investment in tobacco companies and prohibiting tobacco industry donations and to ensure that the Aboriginal tobacco control workforce does not remain depleted.


South Australia – Grade B

Until just two days ago, South Australia was shaping as the clear winner of this year’s Dirty Ashtray Award.

It was the lowest scoring jurisdiction, attracting justified condemnation for cutting its successful tobacco control mass media campaigns – with a consequent drop in smokers seeking Quit advice – as well as failing to act to increase smoke-free environments.

But, on 21 May South Australian Health Minister Jack Snelling made the welcome announcement that the Government would reinstate funding of $1.1 million a year for anti-tobacco mass media campaigns, and that a ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas would come into force by July 2016.

The measures led to a substantial improvement in the State’s ranking on the National Tobacco Scoreboard.

But some concerns remain. Despite a 2013 announcement, Government superannuation funds continue to hold investments in the tobacco industry, and political donations from groups that lobby against tobacco control are still accepted. Furthermore, the Government is yet to enforce restrictions around the sale of e-cigarettes or crack down on misleading advertising regarding their purported health benefits.


Australian Government

The Australian Government has historically been scored using different criteria, given its overarching responsibility for tobacco control at the national level.

The Australian Government deserves praise for maintaining its support for tobacco plain packaging legislation and other measures, and for maintaining support for regular annual tobacco excise increases.

While there has been no national tobacco control mass media advertising since June 2013, it is reassuring that funding for future campaigns has been retained in the budget.

The recent Budget has, however, raised concerns about continuing funding support for Aboriginal tobacco control programs across Australia; some tobacco-related activities may be affected by further cuts to prevention programs; and there is cause for concern that the proposed GP co-payments may discourage patients from seeking smoking cessation advice. Until these matters are determined, it is not appropriate to provide a grading for the Australian Government.



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