31 May, 2016 Last updated: 31 May, 2016

Letter-to-editor by VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter
Jerril Rechter, VicHealth CEO

First published in the Ballarat Courier, 31 May 2016. 

We've all seen the graphic images on cigarette packets with the tobacco company branding removed.

They're confronting, emotive and no longer appealing. They also work. 

Today, on World No Tobacco Day (31 May), it's important to look back at the victories we have had tackling our national smoking problem. 

We can conclusively say that since the introduction of tobacco plain packaging in Australia in 2012, there has been a measured reduction in smoking, and the British Medical Journal's 2015 evaluation showed we have plain packaging to thank for that. 

We have one of the lowest smoking rates in the world and we are on the path to creating a healthier and smoke-free generation. 

This is something Australia can be very proud of, but in order to move forward, we need to look back at areas where we have not been so successful. 

Tobacco products are responsible for the deaths of 4,000 Victorians every single year. Smoking is a chronic relapsing addiction, and we need to show compassion and support to those vulnerable groups unable to quit.

Tobacco tax increases must be accompanied by increased resources to support smokers to quit. 

We need the expertise and passion of public health professionals, researchers and policy makers, and we need support and commitment from all levels of government. 

Today is a reminder that our race to eliminate harm needs to be everyone's business. Our history in tobacco control has been incredibly encouraging. Let's continue our ground-breaking record.

Jerril Rechter is CEO of VicHealth