Cigarettes kill two out of every three long-term smokers, a study published in the international journal BMC Medicine shows – making the habit even deadlier than previously believed. Previously, it was believed smoking killed one in two long-term smokers.
The new landmark research from the Australian National University and Sax Institute shows that we must intensify our campaigns to reduce smoking, according to the Australian Council on Smoking and Health and the Public Health Association of Australia.
“This report, by top Australian and international researchers tells us that a staggering two thirds of Australian smokers are likely to die because they smoked – that’s nearly two million people now alive,” ACOSH President Professor Mike Daube says.
“If anything else caused that death toll it would be seen as a national catastrophe. Australia is a global leader, but 1.8 million deaths – 7.5% of the Australian population – demands a different level of action.
“We need a clear plan from governments to reduce that toll to an absolute minimum – further tobacco tax increases, strong mass media campaigns, protection for non-smokers and support for disadvantaged groups.
“It is also time to ban all tobacco industry promotion – including lobbying and PR by this lethal industry,” says Prof Daube.
PHAA CEO Michael Moore says, “This confirms that smoking is still our single most preventable cause of death and disease – and kills even more smokers than we had thought. It also emphasises the risks of even light smoking.
“The conclusion is clear. We must do everything possible to encourage smokers to quit, and to quit now. We cannot stand by and see yet more generations of Australians dying, often painful deaths, because they smoked.
“Public health leaders campaign on smoking not because of any moral fervour, but because it kills people. Now we know that it kills even more than we had thought. That is cause for deep concern and a call for strengthened action,” says Moore.
Quit Victoria and Cancer Council Victoria welcomed the report.
Director of Quit Victoria, Dr Sarah White says the study highlights how important it was to continue to motivate smokers to quit and create supportive environments through policy and regulation.
“While we’ve made great progress in Victoria, there are still areas for major reform that will go a long way to reducing the tragic loss of potentially nearly two million Australian lives. We have to do more of what we know works and continue to innovate and explore new areas for reform,” Dr White says.
“For example, it beggars belief that a product that kills two in every three long-term users is as readily available as milk and bread.
“Reducing the availability of tobacco, implementing smokefree outdoor drinking and dining in Victoria and continuing investment in public education and support services such as Quitline would all help to create environments that support smokers to quit and stay quit and stop adolescents and young adults from starting in the first place.
“This research drives home the urgency of quitting with the report finding just 10 cigarettes a day doubles a smoker’s risk of dying prematurely, so even those who might consider themselves to be light or social smokers are putting themselves at significant risk. It’s important to know that it’s never too late to quit,” says Dr White.
CEO of Cancer Council Victoria, Todd Harper, says with smoking rates on the decline it was tempting to think that tobacco is less of a problem but there is still a very long way to go before we can breathe easy on this important issue.
“Unfortunately these statistics show that for long-term smokers it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’, so instead of resting on our laurels, we need to be working harder than ever on policies and public education to make it as easy as possible for smokers to quit and stay quit.
“By the middle of next year, Victoria will be the only state that doesn’t have smokefree outdoor dining and drinking areas. This legislation would help to de-normalise smoking for young people and support those attempting to quit,” says Harper.