The latest survey of youth smoking rates in Victoria has found in 2005 smoking rates amongst Victorian school students were the lowest in twenty years.
The report, prepared by The Cancer Council Victoria, reveals eight per cent of Victorian students aged 12 to 15 years and around 19 per cent of students aged 16 to 17 years had smoked in the seven days before being surveyed.
Quit Victoria Executive Director, Mr Todd Harper, said with the right approach, it was possible that youth smoking rates could fall even lower in the years ahead.
"The success of bans on how the tobacco industry markets cigarettes, a move to plain packaging on cigarettes and increased investment in quit smoking campaigns could all contribute to even less young people smoking," Mr Harper said.
Professor Melanie Wakefield from The Cancer Council Victoria said although fewer adolescents were smoking in 2005 than at any other time since the survey was first undertaken 1984, the fact that a large number of adolescents in Victoria are still smoking couldn't be ignored.
"It is estimated that, in 2005, just under 42,000 students aged 12-17 years smoked more than 1million cigarettes in the week before the survey."
"As this data highlights, it is important to send a clear message to younger smokers that every cigarette is doing them damage.
"The survey revealed that more than half of experimental smokers and almost 80% of current smokers aged 12-15 years do not believe smoking ‘one to ten cigarettes every day' was very dangerous.
"There is no such thing as a safe level of tobacco consumption, so it is alarming to see the majority of young adolescents smokers do not regard smoking one to 10 cigarettes every day as a very dangerous activity," Professor Wakefield said.
Mr Harper said the recent Victorian ban on buzz marketing was an effective measure to protect young people from the cunning marketing tactics of the tobacco industry, however he warned about new tricks to attract smokers.
"As more traditional forms of tobacco marketing are phased out the tobacco industry is focusing on using the cigarette pack as a way to recruit a new generation of smokers.
"Forcing the tobacco industry to adopt plain packaging is the only way to ensure tobacco companies are not using the pack to attract young people to their deadly product.
"The tobacco industry currently treats the cigarette pack as free advertising space. A move to plain packaging would stop them from using evocative words, numbers or colours to communicate with potentially new, and current smokers."
Mr Harper said the online retailing of cigarettes was another issue of future concern, with the internet providing a tool to exploit loopholes around tobacco advertising.
"Firm and decisive action must be taken now to stamp out the practice of promoting cigarettes online, before the internet is established as the new favoured medium of tobacco marketing and below the line advertising.
"Young people are both internet savvy and cost conscious, making them a target market of internet sites that promote cigarettes."
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