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Greater urgency needed to reduce smoking, lung cancer rates: experts

Posted 19 Jan, 2018

Quit Victoria says a reversal in the declining funding for powerful mass media campaigns and broader smokefree policies are essential for reducing smoking rates and preventing more Victorians from dying from lung cancer.

As new figures from Cancer Council Victoria’s Victorian Cancer Registry reveal, lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the biggest cancer killer among Victorian women [1]  making it the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said it’s time to regain a sense of urgency in Victoria’s efforts to tackle smoking.

“These awful new lung cancer figures reflect a spike in the number of women who smoked in the mid-1970s. They show we simply cannot afford to take the foot off the pedal when it comes to motivating and supporting people to stop smoking,” Dr White said.

“While overall Australia’s smoking rates have declined, people in our most disadvantaged communities are 2.7 times more likely to smoke than those in advantaged areas [2]. This new data highlights how the devastating health impacts of smoking among young women are realised later in smokers’ lives.”

An average of 13.3 per cent of Victorians adults smoke daily, but in some population groups this figure is as high as 38 per cent.[3]

Dr White said a comprehensive approach to tobacco control is needed to reduce rates of smoking-related cancers including lung cancer.

“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Australia. In Victoria alone cigarettes kill nearly 4000 people each year,” Dr White said.

“Smokers say anti-smoking advertisements and price have a greater impact than any other measure in helping them to quit, but in recent years the amount of government funding available to run advertising campaigns has  been falling below the level we know works to help people quit.

“State and Federal governments must urgently increase funding for these campaigns. They are an effective way of motivating smokers to quit, deterring others from taking up smoking in the first place, and ultimately, drive down lung cancer rates.”

Quit Victoria is a partnership between VicHealth, Cancer Council Victoria, the State Government of Victoria and the Heart Foundation.


1. Figures are from the new report, Cancer in Victoria: Statistics and Trends 2016, released by the Victorian Cancer Registry on 19 January 2018.

2. AIHW National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016.

3. In Victoria, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are current daily smokers was 38% in the latest National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15

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