Victorian smoking rates hit new low

Friday 2 September, 2011

Smoking rates in Victoria have dropped by more than a quarter since 1998, according to new research that shows only 15.3% of Victorians are regular smokers, compared to 21.2% in 1998.

The research released today, from the Cancer Council Victoria, also reveals more than half of Victorians had never smoked which is the highest proportion of never smokers recorded since the survey began.

According to the research:

  • Regular smoking has declined at a similar rate for both males and females, though males were more likely than females to be regular smokers in 2010 (17.9%, males; 12.8%, females).
  • There has been a significant decline in the proportion of younger Victorians (age 18 to 29 years) who are regular smokers, especially since 2005.
  • Professor Melanie Wakefield, from Cancer Council Victoria, said the survey had revealed some interesting differences in the rates of smoking decline amongst different socio-economic groups.

"Socio-economic disparities in smoking behaviours have been a major concern for policy makers and practitioners over the previous decade, with consistently higher levels of smoking in the most disadvantaged groups."

"Between 1998 and 2004, the rate of regular smoking was declining most rapidly among the higher SES Victorians. However between 2005 and 2010, this had reversed and the decrease in regular smoking rates was fastest among the lowest SES group."

Professor Wakefield said this evidence of a ‘narrowing of the gap' in smoking status between low and high SES Victorians could be due to tobacco control initiatives with a particular emphasis on reducing smoking among low SES adults.

"During the late 2000s we have seen an escalation in tobacco control efforts, including increases to tobacco taxation and increased funding for social marketing campaigns - both particularly effective ways of targeting this group."

CEO of the Cancer Council Victoria, Mr Todd Harper, cautioned against interpreting the drop in smoking rates as a sign tobacco was 'a problem solved' in Victoria.

"There is a still long way to go before smoking is no longer a major health problem. Nearly 4,000 Victorians die every year as a result of smoking so tobacco must remain a public health priority."