“We know that when provided appropriately targeted information and encouraged to lead the solutions, Indigenous people are responding in an overwhelmingly positive manner.
But, while the decline of smoking is encouraging, we need to be sure we don’t become complacent.
The challenge to reduce smoking or not take it up is immense and will require a sustained and well-funded effort to really make a difference for our people and close the healthy inequality gap.”
Dr Tom Calma AO National Coordinator Tackling Indigenous Smoking
The recent release of the Victorian Cancer Council report highlighting that one in ten smokers do not believe that smoking causes illness, only a quarter of smokers could link smoking with heart attacks and half with lung cancer means that there is still work to do.
Two in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to smoke, with one in five dying due to tobacco related illness and costing too many of our peoples’ lives every year. This burden is too high and emphasises the importance and the urgency needed to continue, and accelerate, efforts to tackle smoking.
However, there are encouraging signs. This research also shows a dramatic increase in awareness of the effects of second-hand smoke on children and unborn babies and generally, strong public awareness of the harms of smoking.
This also follows the promising signs from the 2012-13 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey which showed that the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people smoking is decreasing, declining 10% over the last decade. The survey also showed a decrease in smoking uptake, with more than one third (37.2%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults never smoking (up from 30% in 2002).
Tackling Indigenous smoking programmes are making traction through a population health and capacity development and empowerment approach.
We know that when provided appropriately targeted information and encouraged to lead the solutions, Indigenous people are responding in an overwhelmingly positive manner. But, while the decline of smoking is encouraging, we need to be sure we don’t become complacent. The challenge to reduce smoking or not take it up is immense and will require a sustained and well-funded effort to really make a difference for our people and close the healthy inequality gap.
ABS 2012-13 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: CLICK HERE
The Perceptions about health effects of smoking and passive smoking among Victorian adults 2003-2011 report found
- about a quarter of the smokers surveyed could not spontaneously say that heart attacks were caused by smoking.
- the data also shows less than 10 per cent of current smokers can connect smoking with asthma, gangrene, eye problems or pregnancy problems.
- And only half of all smokers surveyed could spontaneously link smoking with lung cancer.
Contact the NACCHO SMOKE free team
Contact the NACCHO TATS Talking About The Smokes team
Cancer Council Victoria releases fresh research on the attitudes of smokers, to mark the anniversary of the 1964 report by the US Surgeon General.
On the 50th anniversary of a landmark report linking smoking to cancer, a new report shows one in 10 smokers do not believe smoking causes illness.
Cancer Council Victoria is releasing fresh research on the attitudes of smokers, to mark the anniversary of the 1964 report by the US Surgeon General.
The survey of 4,500 Victorians was conducted by the charity and included a cross-section of smokers and non-smokers.
Todd Harper from Cancer Council Victoria says about a quarter of the smokers surveyed could not spontaneously say that heart attacks were caused by smoking.
He says the data also shows less than 10 per cent of current smokers can connect smoking with asthma, gangrene, eye problems or pregnancy problems.
And only half of all smokers surveyed could spontaneously link smoking with lung cancer.
“I think what we’ve also seen is some improvement over that period of time, we have a majority of people who recognise the harms of passive smoking, but we still have much more to do,” he said.
“Given that smoking still kills 15,000 people every year, given that smoking will kill one in two long-term users, I think it shows the importance and the urgency of keeping up the fight on tobacco.
“We can’t assume for a second that this job is done when we have 15,000 a year in Australia dying because of smoking.”
Health groups call for tougher tobacco laws
Mr Harper says there needs to be tighter licensing rules governing where cigarettes can be sold in some states, and higher licensing fees in the states that have an existing regulatory environment.
Shops do not need a licence to sell cigarettes in Queensland or Victoria.
Licensing arrangements exist in the other states and territories, but Mr Harper says the licences are far too cheap.
“It’s a remarkable contradiction that cigarettes are more freely available than milk and bread, I think we do need to look at ways of restricting the availability of tobacco products,” he said.
“We also need to be doing more to invest in public education campaigns to encourage smokers to quit and to continue to build on the success that we’ve had with smoke-free environments.
“What we’d like to see is that tobacco products weren’t freely available, particularly in places were children are likely to be frequenting.
“So that might be achieved by for example, increasing licence fees for sellers of tobacco products and I think we can also do more to extend smoke-free environments.
“We don’t do enough to recognise that selling tobacco products is not a right, it’s a privilege, these are products that kill one in two long-term users.
“So we do need to see a fee that is appropriate for the level of harm that’s caused and certainly in many cases, we’re seeing fees in the order of hundreds of dollars rather than thousands of dollars which might be a more appropriate starting point.”
A report published in the American Medical Journal this week says despite progress in reducing the prevalence of daily smoking since the 1980s, the number of smokers has “steadily increased” worldwide due to population growth.
The report says: “Although many countries have implemented control policies, intensified tobacco control efforts are particularly needed in countries where the number of smokers is increasing.”
It says between 1980 and 2012, the estimated prevalence of daily smoking for men declined from 41.2 per cent to 31.1 per cent, and women fell from 10.6 per cent to 6.2 per cent.
But it says more than 50 per cent of men are smoking in countries including Indonesia, Laos, Papua New Guinea and East Timor.
50th anniversary of landmark US report linking cigarettes to cancer
Saturday marks 50 years since the US Surgeon General Luther Terry released his report linking cigarettes to cancer.
Simon Chapman is the Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney.
“This was the second big review after the English reviewed the evidence, which pulled everything together, all the research that existed and said ‘this is a major health problem’, it set the scene for years to come and has caused literally hundreds of millions of people to give up smoking,” Professor Chapman said.
“The Surgeon General is the leading office that pulls together reports about health in the United States and they’ve produced many reports over the years on smoking.
“I think people had understood for many years, people had understood expressions like smoking ‘stunted your growth’, but people had never really understood that smoking was a leading cause of death, in fact it kills more people in the world today than any other single cause.
“This really consolidated that evidence and said that the science was in on it, that smoking killed, as we know today, about half of people who are long term users.”
In 1964, smoking rates sat around 70 per cent for men and 30 per cent of women.
Since then, smoking rates among adults have more than halved, with current figures putting the smoking rate at 17.5 per cent.
Professor Chapman says there was little response in Australia at the time to the report.
“I think that many people found it difficult to take on board that smoking was as harmful as the report concluded, but in the years since that message has been amplified over and over again,” he said.
“There is really nothing in the history of medical science which is so conclusively demonstrated as the relationship of smoking to disease.
“Publicity which the report attracted immediately started causing many people to give up smoking, if you looked at what was happening particularly post-war, smoking was going up and up and up, and when those reports came out it started immediately going down and it’s been going down ever since.
“The tobacco industry were, predicably, very aggressive in their criticisms of the report. They started hiring tamed scientists who travelled around the world including to Australia, saying ‘Oh, it’s air pollution that’s doing this, it’s not cigarette smoking’, it was genetic and issues like that were raised continually by them.
“Unfortunately in Australia we had to wait 10 years for the government to take its first action which was to put very tiny health warnings on the bottom of cigarette packs.
“There was a lot of political pressure, there were a lot of connections of the tobacco industry into government, some of our leading politicians, documents show, had friendly relations with the tobacco industry at the time and so I think that they were reluctant to act against an industry which was in their own words, just another business.”