Smoking target points to big benefits

Date: 07.10.09

Category: Smoking and tobacco control

A new VicHealth-funded report finds that an achievable cut in tobacco smoking rates could save up to 5000 Australian lives every year – and result in 158,000 fewer new cases of tobacco-caused illness.

There would be almost one billion dollars in economic benefits with the achievable smoking cuts, the report finds.

Health and economic benefits report coverVicHealth Chief Executive, Todd Harper, speaking at the Oceania Tobacco Control Conference 09 in Darwin on Thursday, said the report The Health and Economic Benefits of Reducing Disease Risk Factor by researchers from Deakin University and the National Stroke Research Institute, examines the health and economic benefits of reducing smoking.

“This report provides strong evidence of the health, economic and financial benefits of achieving lower smoking targets in Australia – targets that have already been achieved in California.

“The report is innovative because its targets are based on scenarios that are realistic. The 15% smoking target has already been reached in California, where effective policies have seen low smoking levels achieved,” he said.
“And these targets point to large gains for relatively modest changes in the behaviours that lead to chronic illnesses. For example, if tobacco smoking in Australia were reduced from 23% in 2004-5 to a target of 15%, over time there would be up to 5000 lives saved each year,” Mr Harper said.

“If Australia followed California’s lead in increasing tobacco prices, using the proceeds for Quit-style social marketing, and tightening smoke-free policies in public areas, smoking rates here could drop even more,” he said.

The report estimates that if the percentage of current smokers in Australia were reduced to 15%, there could be substantial opportunity cost savings.

Reaching the 15% target could over time save:

  • $491 million in the health sector
  • $415 million in production and leisure.

Professor Rob Carter, a co-author of the report, is Professor of Health Economics at Deakin University’s School of Health and Social Development. He said that “the report is breaking new ground in developing a model that estimates the economic benefits of the home-based activities and leisure that are essential to our daily lives.”

“Production and leisure includes the increased economic benefits from paid work (such as reduced absenteeism) plus unpaid, home-based activities, like caring for families, as well as leisure activities,” he said.

 “Despite Australia’s success in reducing smoking levels, smoking continues to cause an estimated 16,000 deaths each year and 455,000 new cases annually of tobacco-caused illness,” Professor Carter said.

The smoking reduction target set by the Government’s National Preventative Health Taskforce is more ambitious: to reduce daily smoking to 9% or less by 2020. Its manifesto for achieving this includes actions addressing price, promotion, regulation and community education.

Mr Harper said that these policies would be very effective on delivering lower smoking levels and urged the implementation of the Taskforce’s recommendations.

“Achieving a smoking level of 9 per cent would be one of the best health outcomes we could achieve and if this report is a guide, we would also see enormous financial and economic benefits too.”


Read the full report here

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