Only 1 in 10 smokers is able to identify, without prompting, that smoking causes throat cancer according to data from the Cancer Council Victoria.
Despite the risk of dying from mouth and throat cancer being around ten times higher among male smokers and five times higher among female smokers, compared to those who have never smoked, data reveals only 11% of smokers spontaneously identify smoking as a cause of throat cancer.
The shocking data comes as a graphic new campaign hits Victoria television screens tonight, detailing the story of a 39-year-old man who lost his voice box to smoking-induced cancer and now breathes through a permanent hole in his throat.
The campaign opens with a doctor preparing to inspect the hole in Ronaldo Martinez's throat, before Mr Martinez explains how he will have to have routine check ups for the rest of his life and is always afraid of bad news.
Executive Director of Quit, Ms Fiona Sharkie, said the decision to show the confronting campaign was made easy by the data showing the majority of smokers are still unaware of the devastating relationship between smoking and mouth and throat cancers.
"Smoking has horrendous effects on the mouth and throat, with advanced cancers potentially causing chronic pain, loss of function and disfigurement. Breathing, talking, eating, chewing and swallowing can all be affected."
"The tragedy of mouth and throat cancer is that most cases could have been prevented, and we hope smokers exposed to Mr Martinez's true-life story are motivated to make a quit attempt."
The campaign, developed by Massachusetts Department of Public Health, has never been aired in Australia but has enjoyed success abroad. Following the campaign being shown in New York almost 6 out of 10 smokers who saw the ad claimed they were more likely to quit smoking as a result.
Ms Sharkie said there was good news for smokers who make the decision to quit smoking as a result of seeing the campaign.
"Stopping smoking halves the risk of mouth and throat cancers within five years and the risk continues to decline over time. After ten years the risk of mouth cancer is similar to someone who has never smoked."
Mouth and throat cancer are classified as cancers of the head and neck. In 2005, more than 11 Victorians were diagnosed with a cancer of the head and neck every week, with mouth and throat cancer specifically claiming 59 Victorians annually between 2002-2005.
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