Remarkable decline in smoking in Australia continues

16 July 2020

The latest results from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey published today has shown a decrease in the prevalence of daily smoking in Australia.

“There has been a remarkable decline in smoking in Australia, from 24% in 1991 to 11% in 2019,” said Maurice Swanson, Chief Executive, Australian Council on Smoking and Health.

“That means literally tens of thousands of deaths prevented. It is also good news that we have seen such a marked decline in younger people taking up smoking.

“So, the trends are very much heading in the right direction.

“There is further good news, in that the decline could be significantly accelerated if the Federal government were to re-start the National Tobacco Campaign. We have not seen a major national TV campaign on tobacco since 2013.

“We know that hard-hitting television advertisements that graphically portray the health consequences of smoking encourage smokers to make quit attempts, and over time this drives down rates of smoking across the community.

“The time is right for a concerted effort combining public education, further regulation and further cessation support for smokers who want to quit. This can maintain Australia’s position as a world leader in reducing smoking.

“A commitment of $40 million a year for the campaign would only be 0.24% of estimated revenue from tobacco tax in the last financial year.

“It is concerning to see an increase in lifetime use of e-cigarettes by 18 to 24-year-olds, particularly among non-smokers. The most common reason given for trying e-cigarettes was curiosity (54%), while only 32% of e-cigarette users were using them to quit smoking.

“Most e-cigarette users continue to smoke as well, and do not reduce their risk of the many chronic diseases caused by smoking, including cancer, heart disease and serious lung disease.

“There have been several recent media reports of school children in Australia being able to obtain e-cigarettes from retail shops and online.

“Alarmingly, in the US and Canada, where e-cigarettes are more freely available and extensively marketed through social media, there has been an epidemic of e-cigarette use by young people.

“We don’t want to see the same trends emerging in Australia, where nicotine addiction becomes entrenched among high school students,” said Mr Swanson.

Australia’s leading independent health advisory bodies, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), have concluded that there is insufficient evidence on the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes to make them more freely available.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt should be commended for recently taking appropriate action to ensure that liquid nicotine can only be imported into Australia with a doctor’s prescription from 1 January 2021.

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 For media enquiries please contact Maurice Swanson 0401 090 915