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Enormous toll of smoking on Australian health system

Monday 2 January, 2006

Enormous toll of smoking on Australian health system

Smoking was responsible for almost *300 000 hospitalisations in Australia between 2001-2002, resulting in nearly 1.5 million hospital bed days and costing almost $700 million.

Associate Professor Susan Hurley said the figures, published in a letter to Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), further highlighted the economic benefits of reducing smoking rates in Australia.

The letter follows a study authored by Associate Professor Hurley, published in the MJA in July, indicating that healthcare costs and hospitalisations would take a welcome dive if a further modest drop in smoking rates were achieved.

The VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control at The Cancer Council Victoria commissioned this study.

""Smoking is still the leading risk factor for total disease burden in Australia,"" said Associate Professor Hurley.

""However achievable reductions in smoking rates not only mean a significant improvement in health outcomes for Australians but also a substantial reduction in health care costs.""

Associate Professor Hurley emphasised the importance of investment in mass media quitting campaigns to push smoking rates down even further.

""The cost-effectiveness of mass media campaigns is illustrated by the fact that even if it cost $13 million for a campaign that reduced smoking by 1% in the first year, the cost would be recovered through reduced hospitalisations for heart attack and stroke alone in 5 years.""

This approach is supported by the CEO of the National Heart Foundation (Victorian Division), Ms Robyn Charlwood, who agrees that ""cessation of smoking results in a rapid reduction of deaths from coronary heart disease. Compared to other diseases, cardiovascular disease is the largest health cost item.""

Executive Director of Quit Victoria, Mr Todd Harper, said the next two years presented a rare opportunity to capitalise on the effect of the new graphic pack warnings and the implementation of smokefree laws.

""The next two years are vital in the tobacco control field, offering a once in a lifetime opportunity to get smoking rates lower than ever before in Australia,"" said Mr Harper.

""If we make the best of this opportunity by using mass media campaigns to encourage people to quit smoking, millions of healthcare dollars will be saved and even more importantly the burden of smoking caused disease on individual Australians and their families will be eased.""

 * Hospitalisations, bed-days and costs attributable to cigarette smoking in Australia in 2001-2002 *

Hospitalisations

Bed-days

Costs**

Proportion

Number

Proportion

Number

Proportion

$

Men

7.6%

138,000

14.6%

891,000

7.6%

$339 M

Women

8.6%

153,000

9.8%

581,000

8.6%

$342 M

Total

8.1%

291,000

12.2%

1,472,000

8.1%

$682 M

* For people aged 40 – 79 years.
**Costs are conservative, as they are based on average cost per hospitalisation.  The higher proportion of bed-days than hospitalisations attributable to smoking suggests smokers tend to have longer stays and thus higher than average costs.

ends

Edwina Vellar,
Media Manager
ph: (03) 9635 5400
mob: 0417 303 811
email:
Edwina.Vellar@cancervic.org.au

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