An international award has today been given to the University of Adelaide's Professor Konrad Jamrozik, who has spent the past 30 years campaigning against smoking and helping smokers to kick the habit.
Professor Jamrozik, who is the Head of the School of Population Health and Clinical Practice at the University of Adelaide, Australia, has received the Nigel Gray Award for Achievement in Tobacco Control.
Awarded as part of the Oceania Tobacco Control Conference being held in Darwin this week, the Nigel Gray Award recognizes 'unsung heroes' working in tobacco control throughout Oceania.
Professor Jamrozik's first interests in tobacco control began as a young medical intern at the Royal Hobart Hospital during the late 1970s, where he became acutely aware of the dangerous consequences of smoking and the impact it was having on patients.
"It occurred to me that there was a great deal of absurdity in patients using their dying breaths to smoke one last cigarette, or admitting a patient to hospital for his second heart attack because no-one had convinced him to stop smoking the first time around," Professor Jamrozik says.
His PhD project, undertaken while he was a postgraduate student at the University of Oxford, examined ways in which general practitioners could increase their effectiveness in helping patients who were smokers to give up smoking permanently.
Since the mid 1980s, Professor Jamrozik has combined his academic and clinical work with his passion for tobacco control as a "part-time activist but full-time advocate".
As an academic expert he has generated significant new evidence on the impact of smoking on heart and blood vessel disease, particularly on stroke, and has completed three further large clinical trials looking for better ways to help smokers to quit.
"I have always aimed to keep the urgency of the problem in view," he says.
His work on deaths attributable to passive smoking was cited at least nine times in the Westminster Parliamentary debate that led to the adoption of smoke-free legislation. A conservative estimate is that that legislation will prevent more than 100,000 premature deaths, principally through its effects in prompting active smokers to quit.
Professor Jamrozik's work has helped to raise the awareness and visibility of tobacco health warnings, and he has been instrumental in promoting a third category of victims of smoking: "The children who are orphaned by their parents' smoking add measurably to the problem of the avoidable death and disease to the parents themselves, and to the harm done by passive smoking."
Professor Jamrozik's contributions to tobacco control have included:
- Chair of the Australian Council of Smoking and Health;
- Chair of the National Heart Foundation's Tobacco Control Committee;
- various contributions to the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians in London, the Health Education and Health Protection Authorities in the United Kingdom, and to the World Health Organization in Geneva;
- membership of the Second National Health and Medical Research (NHMRC) Inquiry into the impact of passive smoking on health; and
- presentations to the European Parliament regarding deaths attributable to passive smoking across all 25 member nations of the expanded European Community.
Professor Jamrozik says his award points directly to "Australia's sustained and distinguished record on international leadership and innovation in tobacco control".
Also receiving the Nigel Gray Award today was New Zealand anti-smoking campaigner Shane Bradbrook.
The award is named for one of the co-authors of the International Union Against Cancer's "Guidelines for Smoking Control" (first published in 1976) and long-term Director of the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, Dr Nigel Gray.
Nominees for the Nigel Gray Award are assessed for creativity, persistence, effectiveness, contribution to change, and skill in their application or generation of evidence or argument.