Less than one in five Victorian adults are regular smokers, and over half have never smoked, according to figures released today.
The data, from The Cancer Council Victoria, indicates an overall reduction in regular smoking prevalence for Victorian adults since 1998, decreasing to 18.5% in 2005.
Latest figures show smoking rates remain lowest amongst among Victorians over 50, where 11.5% are regular smokers, compared to 21.1% of Victorians aged 30-49 and 26% of Victorians aged between 18-29 years.
Professor Melanie Wakefield, from The Cancer Council Victoria, said there were several contributing factors to the continuing decrease in the number of Victorians smoking since 1998, when the proportion of Victorians smoking regularly was 21.7%
"In this time, Victoria experienced a rise in smokefree environments, including shopping centres, enclosed restaurants and cafés, and we have also been exposed to a raft of quit smoking advertising campaigns. Price increases also play an important role in a person's decision to quit smoking."
The data released also shows the proportion of heavy smokers (25 or more cigarettes per day) dropped over 10% to 16% in 2005. There was also a significant increase in the proportion of light smokers, with over half of the regular smokers in Victoria smoking less than 15 cigarettes per day.
Professor Wakefield said although it is encouraging to see fewer cigarettes smoked, it underlines the need to emphasis to smokers that there is no such thing as a safe level of tobacco consumption.
"The only way to stop and reverse the damage done by cigarettes is to quit smoking completely."
Executive Director of Quit Victoria, Mr Todd Harper said despite the gradual decline in smoking rates there was no room for complacency in tobacco control.
"Although data suggests that smoking prevalence is on a downward trend, we cannot afford to become cavalier about the devastating human toll of tobacco. Tobacco control must remain a major public health priority to ensure smoking rates continue to come down."
"Smoking-caused deaths in Victoria outstrip deaths caused by illicit drugs, alcohol, and road deaths combined, so every effort and investment to prevent Victorians from taking up this deadly habit should be made."
"Tobacco kills almost 4000 Victorians every year, and the fact is that most of these deaths will occur in people who started smoking before the age of 18 years."
Mr Harper said he expected tobacco marketing at point-of-sale and the use of cigarette packaging to be the new battlegrounds in tobacco control.
"With bans on both traditional and buzz marketing, the tobacco industry is becoming increasingly reliant on the point-of-sale retail area and cigarette packaging to market its product."
"Banning tobacco product displays at point-of-sale and moving to plain packaging on cigarettes is vital in reducing exposure to tobacco marketing."
According to Mr. Harper the introduction of new graphic pack warnings on cigarette packaging this year and the implementation of state-based tobacco reforms including smoking bans in pubs and clubs in July 2007 offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to get smoking rates lower than ever before in Victoria.
"The introduction of graphic health warnings earlier this year means that every time someone buys a pack of cigarettes they will be exposed explicitly to the harms of smoking, and then once again, each time they reach for a cigarette."
"We hope these important changes, combined with the graphic campaigns highlighting the dangers of smoking and providing smokers with encouragement to call the Quitline, will ease the burden of tobacco within the next five years," said Mr. Harper.
Other findings from research released today include:
- 18.5% of Victorians adults surveyed are regular smokers
- Regular smoking tended to be higher among males (20.2%) than females (16.9%)
- Over half of Victorians surveyed (52.2%) have never smoked
- 27.9% of Victorians surveyed are former smokers
- Smoking rates are significantly lower among Victorians with a tertiary education (12.9%) compared to those who have completed Year 12 or some tertiary study (21.2%) and those with a Year 11 or less education (22.3%).
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