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New Quit Victoria campaign targets lung disease

Monday 21 February, 2005

Low-tar cigarettes no less harmful for your health

The launch of Quit Victoria's new campaign today has sent a chilling warning to smokers  – quit or risk permanent lung damage.

The advertisement, on air from today, reminds viewers that even if you only smoke low-tar cigarettes you are just as likely as smokers who consume regular cigarettes to develop Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a combination of the diseases emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Research released by The Cancer Council of Victoria last week, revealed that COPD claims the lives of over 1000 Victorians annually, second only to lung cancer as the biggest cause of smoking related death.

People with COPD have difficulty absorbing enough oxygen, and sufferers have described it as like 'breathing through a straw.’

Symptoms include shortness of breath, a chronic cough and wheezing.

Quit Victoria’s Executive Director Todd Harper, said another important part of the new campaign was to highlight that even if you only smoke low-tar cigarettes you are exposed to the same smoking caused diseases as those who smoke regular cigarettes.

""There is no evidence that smokers of low-tar cigarettes have less risk of developing COPD than smokers of other cigarettes.""

“More than one in four smokers in Victoria smoke cigarettes of four milligrams tar or less, and in women that number increases to over one in three, and there is no doubt that a significant number of these people have been misled into thinking that the product they have chosen is less harmful.”

“Recent research shows us that over half of smokers surveyed in Australia continue to believe that light cigarettes offer some health benefit compared to regular cigarettes.”

“Put simply there is no safe cigarette and there is no safe level of consumption.”

In relation to the respiratory theme of the campaign Mr Harper said many smokers who have  COPD might not realise, and dismiss the common symptoms of coughing and breathlessness as signs of ageing or being unfit.

“We hope this campaign will show people that smoking is affecting their health now, and that by quitting smoking you take steps to turn that around,” says Mr Harper.

“While it’s true that little can be done to repair destroyed lung tissue, by quitting smoking you can stem the further progression of COPD and improve both quality and length of life.”

Senior Respiratory Physician at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital, Associate Professor Christin e McDonald, said COPD is a major reason for hospitalisation in Australia.

“Between 2001 and 2002 there was over 50 000 hospitalisations for COPD in Australia, with a patient staying in hospital for an average of over 7 days,” says Associate Professor McDonald.

“While most of these cases are among the elderly, the health effects of COPD are not reserved for those over 65. Mild forms of COPD occurring in younger smokers can also affect quality of life, and make simple activities like climbing a flight of stairs physically exhausting.”

“The quality of life of someone suffering considerable lung damage can be severely compromised. Everyday exercises such showering and dressing can suddenly take hours with frequent pauses to stop and rest.”

Associate Professor McDonald said the first thing somebody with COPD can do to manage the condition is quit smoking.

“If a COPD sufferer continues to smoke their condition will continue to deteriorate, it’s as basic as that.”

The television advertisement airing today shows the damage a cigarette can do to a lung, symbolised by a bubble wrap cutout. The hissing bubble wrap is left scorched, melted and blackened.

The accompanying radio advertisement encourages listeners to participate in a small exercise, modifying their breathing until they feel exceedingly short of breath, similar to the suffocating like symptoms of emphysema.

Both radio and television advertisements will go to air on Monday the 21st of February and continue for three weeks.

ends

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

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