Leading health organisation calls for the reintroduction of major national TV-led public education campaign

4 July 2019

A landmark health study published today has graphically demonstrated the need for the Federal Government to reignite Australia’s National Tobacco Campaign, a key missing ingredient to reduce smoking since 2013.

The study by Banks et al and published in BMC Medicine followed more than 180,000 Australians aged over 45 from 2006 to 2015 and examined 36 different types of cardiovascular disease. It linked information from hospitalisation and deaths among current, past and never smokers.

“Even ‘light smoking’, 4-6 cigarettes a day, can dramatically increase your risk of dying from diseases of the heart and blood vessels,” said Maurice Swanson, Chief Executive, Australian Council on Smoking and Health.

“One of the new findings from this study is that as well as being a major cause of premature death, smoking causes a large number of non-fatal diseases of the heart and blood vessels.

“Around 36% of cardiovascular deaths prior to age 65, and 15% of all cardiovascular deaths in Australia (around 6400 deaths annually) – a country with a relatively low prevalence of current smoking – can be attributed to smoking.

“For the first time it has been shown that smoking significantly increases the risk of paroxysmal tachycardia – a type of arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, which can lead to hospitalisation or death.

“Also, smoking significantly increases the risk of cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body,” said Mr Swanson.

The study also confirmed that smoking harms all of the cardiovascular system, with current smokers experiencing a doubling in the risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure, a tripling in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and a five-fold increase in the risk of peripheral vascular disease (e.g. gangrene), compared to people who have never smoked.

“The findings of this study demonstrate why it is absolutely vital for the Australian Government to reintroduce a national tv-led public education campaign to encourage and support smokers to quit. The Federal Government received over $12 billion from tobacco tax in 2018/19 but has not funded a nationwide campaign since 2013.

“The first phase of the new campaign could highlight the lethal impact of smoking on the heart and blood vessels to motivate smokers to quit.

“There are still 2.7 million Australians smoking, and two thirds of them will die prematurely from their smoking.

“People quitting by age 45 can avoid over 90% of the cardiovascular risks caused by smoking,” Mr Swanson said.

This study emphasises just how important it is to quit smoking. Most smokers quit unassisted but those who have difficulty should contact their GPs or call the Quitline 13 7848.

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Maurice Swanson, ACOSH Chief Executive, 0401 090 915