Smoking rates in Victoria have dropped by more than 20% since 1998, according to new research which shows only 16.5% of Victorians are regular smokers.
The research released today, from the Cancer Council Victoria, also reveals women are smoking less than ever before, with fewer than 15% being regular smokers.
According to the research:
- Regular smoking has declined at a similar rate for both males and females, though males were more likely than females to be regular smokers in 2008 (18.4%, males; 14.7%, females).
- Older Victorians (aged 50 years or more) were less likely to be regular smokers (11.1%) than younger Victorians aged 18-29 years (22.3%) and those aged 30-49 years (18.8%).
Professor Melanie Wakefield, from The Cancer Council Victoria, said the current trends in Victorian smoking rates reflect a period of considerable tobacco control activity, including increases in cigarette price, a total ban on traditional tobacco advertising and regular mass media campaigns.
"A number of significant tobacco control initiatives have been implemented since 1998 and the impact of these efforts are likely to have contributed to the continued decline of smoking rates over this period."
"Mass-media anti-smoking campaigns, and increases in real cigarette price are two population-wide strategies that have been shown to reliably result in reductions in smoking rates."
"Additionally, increasing the price of cigarettes has been shown to be a particularly effective method for reducing smoking in the lower socio-economic groups, who appear to be more responsive to increases in cigarette price."
Executive Director of Quit Victoria, Ms Fiona Sharkie, said the data around female smoking rates was particularly pleasing.
"Women now have the lowest smoking rates on record in Victoria, however men's smoking rates have also reduced from almost 25% in 1998 to 18.5% in 2008."
Ms Sharkie cautioned against interpreting the drop in smoking rates as a sign tobacco was no longer a problem in Victoria, emphasising there was a still long way to go before smoking is no longer a major health problem.
"Tobacco is number one cause of preventable death in Victoria and while nearly 4000 Victorians every year are still dying as a result of smoking there is no excuse for tobacco being anything less than a public health priority."
CEO of the Heart Foundation (Vic), Ms Kathy Bell, welcomed news of continued decline in smoking but said more work needs to be done to inform smokers of the health risks of their habit.
"Smoking-caused heart disease accounts for about 700 deaths annually in Victoria and not only do smokers have more heart attacks, repeat heart attacks and angina than non-smokers, they also have heart attacks at a much younger age.
"It‘s great news that the number of women who are smoking in Victoria is now below 15%, but too many women are still unaware that their risk of heart disease increases significantly if they smoke."
"It's important that smokers continue to be exposed to graphic images, like those featured in the campaign launched today, highlighting the real health consequences of smoking."
"Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, but the good news is that it's never too late to quit, and quitting can put a smoker on the road to improved heart health within as little as a year," said Ms Bell.
The Cigarettes Are Eating You Alive campaign was originally developed by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and has been adapted for local use. The campaign will begin airing on Victorian television on Sunday evening.
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