Reasons for tobacco laws
Page content: Introduction | Community support for tobacco control | Smoking prevalence | Health impacts | Environmental tobacco smoke | Cost to business, governments & the community | Smoking & pregnancy | Key references
As smoking rates in Victoria continue to decline, it is clear that policy approaches adopted here have been successful and will continue to significantly reduce the harms caused by smoking.
In August 2008, a public consultation was undertaken to hear community views on the next steps for tobacco control in Victoria. A large number of submissions were received from the general public and other stakeholders, including the health sector and tobacco industry. The consultation found substantial support for legislative reforms, particularly those which protect children from the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke and which reduced the likelihood of youth smoking initiation:
In August 2009, the Victorian Parliament passed amendments:
- banning point of sale displays in retail outlets (effective 1 January 2011);
- banning smoking in cars carrying children under 18 years of age (effective 1 January 2010);
- banning the sale of cigarettes from temporary outlets (effective 1 January 2010);
- providing the Minister with the power to ban youth-orientated tobacco products and packages (effective 1 January 2010);
- banning smoking on Government school grounds (effective 1 July 2009).
- Regular smoking prevalence among Victorian adults has declined from 21.6 per cent in 1999 to 15.3 per cent in 2010.
- More than 90 per cent of Australians who currently smoke began as teenagers. In 2002 in Victoria, 17 per cent of 12-17 year old secondary students were current smokers. This rate was significantly higher amongst 16 and 17 year olds with 33 per cent of 16 year old females and 30 per cent of 17 year old males being current smokers.
- Smoking is the largest contributor to preventable death in Australia and is known to increase the risk of lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and many other illnesses.
- In 1998, smoking caused around 4,750 deaths in Victoria. That equals 90 Victorians every week or about 13 per day. If we compare this to other causes of death in the same year, on average:
- illicit drugs killed 5 Victorians every week
- road accidents killed 8 Victorians every week
- alcohol killed 16 Victorians every week.
- Half of all long-term smokers will die prematurely, of these half will die in middle age. Smokers are more than three times more likely than non-smokers to die in middle age.
- Smokers are four times more likely than non-smokers to suffer a heart attack before the age of 40. Most people who die due to heart disease in their 40s or 50s are smokers.
- Long-term smokers suffer more disease and disability at younger ages before they die. On average they suffer reduced quality of life for a greater number of years than non-smokers.
- At least 60 of the chemicals in tobacco smoke are known to cause cancer. Smoking causes cancer of the lung, throat, mouth, bladder and kidneys. Tobacco smoke also contributes to a number of other cancers and causes heart disease, stroke and emphysema.
- Non-smokers who suffer long-term exposure to environmental tobacco smoke have a 20 to 30 per cent higher risk of developing lung cancer than non-smokers who are not exposed. Exposure to high levels of environmental tobacco smoke has been found to increase the risk of heart disease by 50 to 60 per cent.
- There is increasing evidence that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke can increase the risk of stroke and nose and sinus cancer among non-smokers.
- In 1998/9, 48 Victorians died as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. 38 per cent of these deaths were among children aged 14 years and under.
- Surveys of Victorian workers show that employees in hospitality venues are more likely to work in smoky areas than those in other industries. These venues also tend to have higher levels of tobacco smoke than other workplaces. As a result, hospitality workers are more likely to suffer from health problems such as wheezing, coughing, sore eyes and sore throats.
- About 40 per cent of Australian children are exposed to tobacco smoke at home.
Children are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of environmental tobacco smoke:
- Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is a risk factor in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS or cot death).
- A child who lives in a smoking household for the first 18 months of its life has an increased risk (around 60 per cent higher) of developing a range of respiratory illnesses including croup, bronchitis, bronchiolitis and pneumonia. They are also more prone to getting colds, coughs and glue ear (middle ear infections). Their lungs show a reduced ability to function and slower growth.
- A child exposed to tobacco smoke in the home is 40 per cent more likely to develop asthma symptoms. Estimates suggest that about 8 per cent of childhood asthma cases are caused by environmental tobacco smoke.
- A non-smoking pregnant woman is more likely to give birth to a baby with a slightly lower birth weight if she is exposed to smoke in the home - for example, if her partner smokes.
- Tobacco smoking costs Victoria about $5.05 billion each year. Of those costs, 31.6 per cent are tangible costs (e.g. absenteeism, health care, fires) and 68.4 per cent are intangible costs (e.g. loss of life).
- Hospital costs arising from passive smoking totaled $11.4 million. 94 per cent of these costs are attributable to patients in the 0-14 age group who suffer conditions attributable to passive smoking such as low birthweight, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma and lower respiratory illness.
- Victoria bears 24 per cent of the total Australian social costs of smoking. Smoking in Victoria costs residents about $4.3 billion each year. Businesses bear about
$494 million and governments bear about $207 million in costs each year.
- Expenditure on tobacco (up to $50 a week for each pack-a-day smoker) impoverishes low-income households, reducing funds available for many other purposes.
- Australian data indicates that about 20 per cent of women smoke during pregnancy, although this percentage appears to be going down. Smoking can seriously affect the developing foetus. Health risks include:
- increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.
- increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight.
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2005. 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: State and territory supplement. AIHW cat. no. PHE 61. Canberra: AIHW.
- Better Health Channel www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au, accessed 7 September 2005.
- Collins D & Lapsley H 2005, Counting the costs of tobacco and the benefits of reducing smoking prevalence in Victoria, Victorian Department of Human Services, Melbourne.
- Durkin S, Letcher T, Libscomb J 2003, Public opinion about smokefree policies in bars, nightclubs and gambling venues 2000-2003, Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer Research Paper Series No. 6, Melbourne.
- Hayes, L. Durkin,S. & Wakefield, M (2011). Smoking prevalence and consumption in Victoria; key findings from the 1998-2010 population surveys. (CRBC Research Paper Series, No 42). Melbourne, Australia: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer.
- Letcher T & Borland R 2001, ‘Smoking bans in Victorian workplaces: 2001 update’, Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Quit Victorian Research and Evaluation Studies No. 11, 2000-2001, Melbourne.
- Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy 2004, National Tobacco Strategy, 2004-2009: The Strategy, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
- National Cancer Institute 2000, State and Local Legislative Action to Reduce Tobacco Use, Smoking and Tobacco Control Monograph No. 11. Bethesda, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, NIH PUB No 00-4804, August.
- National Public Health Partnership 2000, National response to passive smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces: A background paper, Commonwealth of Australia.
- Seigel M 1993, ‘Involuntary smoking in the restaurant workplace: a review of employee exposure and health effects’, JAMA 270: 490-475.
- Victorian Population Health Survey 2006, Department of Human Services, Victoria,
- White V, Hayman J, Wakefield M, Hill D 2003, Trends in smoking among Victorian secondary school students 1984-2002. Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Research Paper Series No. 4, Melbourne.