Co-author: TJ Ryan
Long-term effects of smoking: How many Australians die from smoking?
According to landmark research from the Australian National University and Sax Institute released in 2015, 2 in 3 Australian smokers are likely to die because they smoked.
With the Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting that approximately 2.6 million Australians smoke as of 2014-15 – 14.5% of the population – that represents more than 1.7 million people currently alive who are likely to die of a smoking-related illness.
Smoking statistics are thankfully decreasing, down from 3.1 million Australians (16.1%) who smoked in 2011-12. But there’s still a long way to go in terms of how many people die from smoking.
How the government can help reduce smoking death statistics
Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH) President Professor Mike Daube says the federal government needs a clear plan to reduce smoking death statistics, calling it “a national catastrophe”. He recommends:
- Further tobacco tax increases
- Strong mass media campaigns
- Protection for non-smokers
- Support for disadvantaged groups
- Ban on all tobacco industry promotion – including lobbying and PR
We’re pleased to announce that as of 2016, state governments have at least been effective in reducing the areas where smokers can affect non-smokers. And the federal government gave us plain packaging on tobacco products a while back now, with tobacco promotion also highly restricted.
Time for young people to stub out
According to Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) CEO Michael Moore, the most important thing is to prevent people taking up smoking in the first place.
The most recent survey of smoking facts for teenagers found that young people are waiting until 15.9 years (longer than in the past) to take up smoking, and 95% of 12- to 17-year-olds have never smoked. This is good news for the majority, but for the other 5%, we know that once people start smoking at a young age, they can find it much harder to quit later.
Mr Moore recommends the following actions to prevent teenagers taking up smoking at all:
- Tackle all forms of social media and marketing
- Fight the growing incidence of smoking in movies
- Build on non-smoking areas to protect non-smoking teens and restrict smokers
- Tax cigarettes and other forms of tobacco
- Fight the growing use of new innovations such as e-cigarettes
Mr Moore looks forward to a time when the number of smokers reaches a “tipping point” where the overwhelming percentage of non-smokers would make it unlikely that someone would take up the habit.
He points out, though, that there are still high smoking rates amongst some populations such as Indigenous people and other socio-economically disadvantaged groups.
“We need more sophisticated population health planning mechanisms to properly target the next round of interventions,” he adds.
“The highest priority for the government in this area at the moment (should) be investing in new targeted anti-smoking (health risk) campaigns.”
Prevent long-term effects of smoking by quitting now
It’s difficult to quit smoking – it’s a very addictive habit. Enlisting the help of friends, family and health professionals is a must.
For those who currently do smoke, the QUIT line, your GP, and other health professionals can play an important role in helping you to quit.
In addition, try the following:
- Choose a set day to quit smoking. Write it on your calendar, tell your family and friends, and see your health professional beforehand.
- If you don’t want to go cold turkey, think about cutting back gradually. Perhaps make your home smoke-free. Or limit yourself to two cigarettes per day, only at work.
- Put some healthy eating and regular exercise into your daily routine. This will help to give you a greater sense of purpose, as well as avoid weight gain while quitting.
There are many different methods of quitting and some great strategies on staying quit. See www.quit.org.au or telephone the Quitline on 13 78 48 for more information.
Thinking about the future: Life insurance?
We know that the majority of smokers are currently not buying life insurance – and most of that is due to the fact that life insurance is about twice as expensive for smokers. However, if you can quit smoking for just one year, you can get non-smoking life insurance.
If you have no smoking-related pre-existing health conditions so far, you may be able to gain packaged life insurance to protect you and your family’s finances if the worst should happen:
- Cancers such as lung cancer – Trauma Cover
- Disability caused by cancer-related limb amputations – TPD
- Time off work due to illness or injury – Income Protection Insurance
- Passing away from a smoking-related illness – Term Life Insurance