Department of Health

Tobacco laws - why they are needed

Key messages

  • Legislative reforms and anti-smoking initiatives are contributing to declining smoking rates across Victoria.
  • Recent tobacco law reforms have focused on expanding the number of smoke-free areas in Victoria.
  • Smoking remains the largest contributor to preventable deaths in Australia.
  • In Victoria, smoking is estimated to cost around 4,000 lives and $2.4 billion in direct health costs and lost productivity annually.

Legislation governing tobacco products and smoking continues to contribute to the decline of smoking rates in Victoria, and to a growing awareness of the harm associated with smoking and second-hand smoke.

The Tobacco Amendment Act 2016 amends the Tobacco Act 1987 to introduce a smoking ban on outdoor dining areas and to regulate e-cigarettes and shisha tobacco in Victoria.

These new reforms have strong community support and will contribute to reducing smoking rates and tobacco-related harm. These reforms will commence on 1 August 2017.

Smoking prevalence in Victoria

Regular smoking prevalence among Victorian adults has declined from 21.6 per cent in 1999 to 13.3 per cent in 2012.

In 2011, 4 per cent of Victorian students aged 12 to 15 years and 14 per cent of students aged 16 to 17 years were current smokers. The reduction in the use of tobacco among young adolescents since the early 2000s is continuing.

Health impacts of smoking

Smoking is the largest contributor to preventable deaths in Australia and is known to increase the risk of lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and many other illnesses.

In 2008–09 smoking caused around 4,000 deaths in Victoria.

Studies have found that:

  • Half of all long-term smokers will die prematurely, of whom 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.

Second-hand tobacco smoke

Non-smokers who suffer long-term exposure to environmental tobacco smoke have a higher risk of developing lung cancer than non-smokers who are not exposed to such smoke. Studies of the risk of environmental or ‘second-hand’ smoke show that:

  • Exposure to high levels of environmental tobacco smoke can increase the risk of heart disease by 50–60 per cent, as well as increasing the risk of stroke and nose and sinus cancer among non-smokers.
  • Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of environmental tobacco smoke, which is a risk factor in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS or cot death).
  • Children who live in a smoking household for the first 18 months of life have an approximately 60 per cent higher risk 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.

Costs to business, governments and the community

The report The Social Costs of Smoking in Victoria in 2008/09 and the Social Benefits of Public Policy Measures to Reduce Smoking Prevalence estimates smoking costs around $2.4 billion annually in direct healthcare costs and lost productivity.

Smoking and pregnancy

Australian data indicates that about 15 per cent of women smoke during pregnancy, although this percentage appears to be decreasing.

Smoking can seriously affect the developing foetus, with health risks including:

  • increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth
  • increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight.

Reviewed 08 October 2015


Contact details

Postal Address: Tobacco Control Section, Department of Health & Human Services, GPO Box 4057, Melbourne, VIC 3001

Tobacco Control Section

Contact details

For information about tobacco control in Victoria

Tobacco Information Line Department of Health & Human Services

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