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Smoking needs to butt out right now

GIVEN the wealth of medical knowledge we have at our fingertips nowadays, why anyone would willingly take up cigarette smoking is perplexing to say the least.

Let’s forget for a moment the exorbitant cost of a packet of cigarettes nowadays – the health impact is alarming.

Smoking-related diseases kill almost 15,000 Australians a year. That’s 40 people every day. And men are the most likely to die – 9700 men die a year compared with 5200 women.

Cancer is the leading cause of tobacco-related deaths in men at 57 per cent. It’s marginally lower in women at 51 per cent.

Lung cancer accounts for three-in-four cancers in men (72 per cent in women). It causes the most cancer deaths in this country and that’s mainly caused by smoking.

Last week the state government released details of a discussion paper based on recommendations from the Tasmanian Health Council.

One of those recommendations was to increase the minimum smoking age in Tasmania to 21 or 25.

That’s an ambitious target, and it is retrospective, meaning people currently 18 and upwards wouldn’t be banned overnight if any such plan ever eventuated.

But there is a definite problem in Tasmania when it comes to smoking cigarettes. We’re disproportionately represented in those smoking figures. Tasmania boasts, if you can use that term, the second highest rate of smoking in Australia at just under 18 per cent. Only the Northern Territory is higher at 20.9 per cent.

Then we can throw in the cost to society. Yes, cigarettes are already heavily taxed, raking in between $5 and $6 billion a year in taxes.

But that’s minuscule compared with the costs to the country – $31.5 billion in social and economic costs, including to our health system.

With that in mind, any recommendation or plan to reduce the number of people who smoke, no matter how ambitious, should be given due consideration.

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