Opinion piece by Jerril Rechter, VicHealth CEO
First published in Sunraysia Daily, 1 June 2018
It is bizarre to think there was a time when smoking on aeroplanes, in hospitals and offices was acceptable and normal.
We’ve seen cigarettes in Australia go from being promoted at kids’ sporting games, to being wrapped in plain packaging hidden from display.
While Victoria has one of the lowest smoking rates in the world, we still have a way to go to eliminate harm from tobacco in our state.
It’s World No Tobacco Day, a time to reflect and celebrate the important milestones which have seen smoking dramatically decrease. The introduction of plain-packaging in 2012 was a major victory in the fight by Australia’s public health community and governments against Big Tobacco.
Last year was another milestone, with smoking banned from outdoor venues serving food, allowing restaurant goers to enjoy outdoor venues without having to inhale toxic cigarette smoke.
Yet the battle has not been won, not yet. It is estimated that well over half a million Victorian’s still smoke regularly, and each year, we know that tobacco products are responsible for the deaths of 4,000 Victorians. These deaths, from heart disease, stroke, and cancer, are devastating and preventable.
So today for World No Tobacco Day, we should all take a moment to remember that tobacco control is everyone’s business – government, business and the community.
We can’t be complacent when it comes to smoking – here are three things you can do to help us win the fight against tobacco:
- Support a smoker to quit – demonising smokers is not the answer. Help a friend, colleague or neighbour to quit by pointing them in the direction of fantastic free resources like Quitline and My QuitBuddy.
- Ask your local to go smokefree – we know that some local venues are worried they’ll lose customers if they make outdoor areas smoke-free. Let them know you’re more likely to visit if they cater to non-smokers.
- Keep the pressure on – It’s important our governments continue to take action on cigarettes. Write to your MP or local council and tell them how smoking is impacting your local area.
I look forward to the day where no matter where you are in Victoria, you can breathe smoke free clean air.