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VicHealth Tobacco Strategy 2019–2023

5 Aug 2019
Research and Publications
A person lighting a tobacco cigarette and blowing smoke.

VicHealth’s Action Agenda 2019–2023 reaffirms the 10-year goal that 400,000 more Victorians would be tobacco free by 2023.


While the proportion of Victorians who smoke is declining, the tobacco industry is continually evolving its products to make them more appealing, and in some instances more affordable, thereby threatening to stall the progress made over the past 30 years.

Preventing uptake, promoting and supporting cessation, and reducing people’s exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke are the key pillars to reducing harm from tobacco in Victoria.

In 2013, VicHealth released its Action Agenda for Health Promotion, which set our strategic direction for the 10 years to 2023. Preventing tobacco use was one of the five strategic imperatives identified for action to improve the health of all Victorians, with a 10-year goal that 400,000 more Victorians would be tobacco-free by 2023.

Focus areas

Preventing uptake among young people

Over the past 20 years, smoking rates in Australia have halved (Greenhalgh et al. 2019a), mainly driven by significant declines in smoking uptake by teenagers. As most people who smoke start during their teenage years, preventing the uptake of smoking among young people is crucial to driving further reductions in tobacco use (Greenhalgh et al. 2019b). Recent industry tactics threaten to stall this progress through predatory marketing and the introduction of products that are designed to be more appealing to young people.

To prevent young people from smoking, we will:

  • continue to monitor tobacco and related products to ensure they are not designed to appeal to young people

  • support, through Quit Victoria, the delivery of public education campaigns about the negative health impacts of smoking to increase quitting behaviour and to discourage the uptake of smoking among young people.

What will success look like?

  • Continued low rates of smoking among young people

  • Government action to restrict tobacco product changes that increase their appeal to young people

Supporting people to quit, particularly those from disadvantaged groups

A key challenge in reducing tobacco use across the population is supporting people who currently smoke to quit and to remain tobacco-free. While some people can quit on their own, many others require support to do so. This is particularly true for disadvantaged Victorians who are not only more likely to smoke, but also likely to find it more difficult to quit (Greenhalgh et al. 2015; Hiscock et al. 2011).

We have supported Quit Victoria to work with community and health organisations to increase the promotion of smoking cessation to key population groups. We have also invested in research to explore the effectiveness of cessation support among drug and alcohol treatment clients.

Drawing on this work, we will support Victorians who smoke to quit by:

  • continuing to provide substantial funding for the Quit Victoria program and explore opportunities for greater collaboration between different organisations and communities to contribute to smoking cessation

  • engaging in coordinated effort and action to integrate evidence-based smoking cessation support in health service settings.

What will success look like?

Further positive impacts of Quit Victoria programs, evidence of new and stronger collaborations and increased adoption of evidence-based practices in health service settings.

Reducing the appeal of tobacco products

Australia’s world-first plain-packaging legislation sought to reduce the appeal and the capacity of packaging of tobacco products to suggest reduced harm, by mandating a standardised colour and shape for all tobacco products and the inclusion of prominent graphic health warnings. The evidence shows that the legislation was effective and led to an increase in quit attempts among people who smoke (Greenhalgh & Scollo 2018; McNeill et al. 2017; White et al. 2015).

However, the tobacco industry continues to create new ways to differentiate and market its products to make them more palatable and appealing through product design (for instance, flavour capsules), brand variant names and pricing strategies that undermine the intent of plain packaging and other tobacco control legislation (Bayly et al. 2016).

We will reduce the appeal of tobacco products by:

  • continuing to advocate for national reform on tobacco products, including pricing and further regulation of product packaging and contents

  • working with government and other stakeholders, including Quit Victoria, to identify and close loopholes in tobacco advertising and promote legislation.

What will success look like?

Further reform of regulations to limit the appeal of tobacco products.


Other resources

References: Download the VicHealth Tobacco Strategy 2019–2023 PDF for a full list of references


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Artwork by Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022
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Artwork Credit: Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022, acrylic on canvas. Learn more about this artwork.