Health groups have welcomed data showing a decline in smoking rates in Australia as proof that a comprehensive investment in tobacco control can reduce the devastating impact of smoking in the community.
Information released by the Federal Government this afternoon reveals that daily smoking rates for people over the age of 14 are now 17.4%, compared to 19.5% in 2001 and 21.8% in 1998.
The Cancer Council Australia, the National Heart Foundation of Australia and Quit Victoria welcomed news of the decrease in smoking rates and said that with a continued Commonwealth commitment to tobacco control, further reductions could be expected in the coming years.
The groups said the Government's new graphic health warnings on cigarette packs, to be introduced from March 2006, and the recent ratification of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, if backed by a strong investment in mass media quitting programs, could save thousands more Australians from premature death and disease caused by smoking.
The Chief Executive Officer of The Cancer Council Australia, Professor Alan Coates, said medical evidence showed that smoking caused at least 14 types of cancer, including some of the most lethal and debilitating forms of the disease.
""This downturn in smoking prevalence means that up to 200,000 Australians have dramatically reduced their risk of developing these cancers,"" Professor Coates said.
“Smoking still remains the number one cause of preventable death and disability in Australia. We should build on the success of recent tobacco control programs and save thousands more Australians from premature death and disease.”
The Heart Foundation’s Tobacco spokesperson, Mr Maurice Swanson, said that smoking rates could continue to drop if the Government maintains its strong commitment to stemming the destructive toll of smoking on the Australian population.
“Smoking is still the nation’s largest cause of death and disease, causing immeasurable grief for those who have lost a loved one to a smoking caused disease and putting tremendous pressure on the health system.
“However continued work in the field of tobacco control, and the support of the Government in encouraging people to quit means that we have a great opportunity to ensure the rate continues to go down,” said Mr Swanson.
Quit Victoria’s Executive Director, Mr Todd Harper, said that the data confirmed Australia’s status as a leader in tobacco control.
“There is no doubt that Australia is a world leader in tobacco control, and that willingness to tackle the tobacco problem head-on has a flow on effect in that less Australians now are smoking.”
“The greater the effort put into tobacco control means the greater the return we will see in long term health benefits for all Australians,” said Mr Harper.
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