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Victorian smoking rates hit record low, new figures reveal

Wednesday 18 July, 2012

Smoking rates in Victoria have dropped below 15% for the first time, according to new research released today.

The research, released by Cancer Council Victoria today, shows 14.4% of Victorians were regular smokers in 2011 compared to 21.2% in 1998.

Young people are also getting the message about the dangers of smoking with adults aged 18 to 29 no longer the age group with the highest proportion of regular smokers. In 2011, more than half of Victorian adults aged under 50 had never smoked.

According to the 2011 Smoking Prevalence and Consumption in Victoria report:

  • Only 1 in 7 Victorian adults are regular smokers.
  • Males are more likely than females to be regular smokers (16.2%, males; 12.6%, females)
  • Older Victorians (aged 50 years or more) were less likely to be regular smokers (9.6%) than younger Victorians aged 18 to 29 years (16.5%) and those aged 30 to 49 years (18.1%).
  • Since 2005, the rates of decline in the prevalence of regular smoking have become faster among two key demographic groups who are among those most likely to smoke; adults living in the most disadvantaged areas of the state, and young adults aged 18 to 29 years.
  • The mean number of cigarettes smoked per day for daily smokers dropped from 18 in 1998 to 14.5 in 2011.

Cancer Council Victoria Chief Executive Todd Harper said the drop in smoking rates was proof that investment in tobacco control activity has a positive impact on reducing smoking rates.

"We have gone through a period of significant action and tobacco reform over the last five years with increases to the price of cigarettes, constant exposure of smokers to anti-smoking messages on television and an impressive expansion of smoke-free areas," he said.

"If such a strong commitment to reducing smoking in Victoria is continued then there is no doubt that smoking rates could drop even further in the years ahead."

Quit Victoria Executive Director Fiona Sharkie cautioned that despite such tremendous progress in tobacco control there was no room for complacency, adding that if momentum is not maintained smoking rates could potentially creep up again.

"Nearly 4,000 Victorians die every year from smoking-related illnesses, more than twice the combined annual toll from alcohol, drugs and car accidents," he said. "Tobacco control must remain a public health priority if we are to tackle Australia's smoking toll and prevent young people from taking up this deadly habit."