Tobacco use-the trends, the effects, the costs

Tobacco use and its health impact in Australia was released to day by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The report outlines patterns and trends in tobacco use in Australia, the health effects of tobacco use on smokers, and the health care costs that result.

Patterns and trends

  • From the early 1900s there was a rapid uptake of smoking among men. The uptake among women occurred around 1940, and was also rapid. Since the mid-1970s, fewer adults have smoked.
  • In 1994-95, 28% of men and 22% of women aged 18 and over were smokers.
  • During the 1980s the percentage of secondary school students who smoked cigarettes fell. In 1993, 28% of boys and 31% of girls aged 17 smoked.
  • Smoking is more prevalent among Indigenous peoples. In 1994, 54% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and 46% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females aged 13 years and over smoked.
  • There is a higher prevalence of smoking among the less well-off.

Health effects

  • In 1992, active cigarette smoking accounted for an estimated 15% (18,920 deaths) of all deaths, and 22% (8,044 deaths) of deaths among 35- to 69-year-olds.
  • Lung cancer, coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive lung disease, including asthma, are the biggest contributors to tobacco-related death and illness.
  • The impact of tobacco related disease is greater for Indigenous peoples and the less well-off, where smoking is more common.
  • As smoking rates in adults have fallen, so have death rates for coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive lung disease. Since the early 1980s, lung cancer incidence and death rates have fallen for males but increased in females. This difference is explained by different patterns in men and women of taking up and quitting smoking.

Health care costs

  • In 1989-90, the costs of hospital, medical, pharmaceutical, nursing home and allied professional care for tobacco related disease in Australia totalled $672 million.



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