Smoking is a significant cause of preventable illness and death in Australia.
The harms of tobacco use
Tobacco use is the leading contributor to disease and death burden.
It is responsible for nine per cent of disease burden, and almost 13 per cent of deaths in Australia (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation 2017).
In Victoria, smoking claims about 4,400 lives each year (Department of Health and Human Services 2018a). These deaths are entirely avoidable and cause considerable distress for individuals, families and communities.
Smoking increases the risk of lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and many other illnesses, and evidence suggests that smoking kills almost two in three regular users (Banks, et al. 2015).
The health burden of tobacco use does not just affect smokers.
Children who live in a smoking household are significantly more likely to suffer from bronchiolitis and other respiratory conditions (Jones, et al. 2011) and infants are at greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The economic cost of smoking
In addition to the devastating health impacts, smoking has a significant economic impact.
It costs the Victorian economy $3.7 billion in tangible costs such as health care, and $5.8 billion in intangible costs associated with the loss of life every year (Creating Preferred Futures 2018).
Reducing the smoking rate
While progressive tobacco control efforts have reduced smoking rates in Victoria over the past few decades, recent data suggests that these reductions are slowing. Between 2013 and 2016, the proportion of daily smokers in Victoria only decreased by 0.3 per cent to 12.3 per cent in 2016 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017).
Nor have reductions in smoking rates been achieved equally across the population.
In 2016, 39 per cent of Aboriginal Australians aged over 14 years smoked daily (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016).
Aboriginal women are significantly more likely to smoke during pregnancy. Almost 40 per cent of Aboriginal women in Victoria smoked at any time during pregnancy, which was more than four times higher than non-Aboriginal pregnant women (Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity 2017).
Socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals are also more likely to be current smokers.
In Victoria, both males and females in the lowest household income group are twice as likely to be smokers compared to the highest household income group (Department of Health and Human Services 2018b).
Continued and renewed focus on tobacco-free living is essential to further reduce Victoria's smoking rates and the devastating health effects of tobacco use on the Victorian community.
12.3 per cent of Victorian adults smoke daily (Department of Health and Human Services 2018b).
4 per cent of Victorian students aged 12 – 17 years currently smoke (Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer 2018).
39 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over 14 years smoke daily (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016).
Burden of disease
Tobacco use contributed to 13 per cent of all Australian deaths in 2017 (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation 2017).
9 per cent of disease and injury burden in Australia is attributable to tobacco smoking (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation 2017).
80 per cent of lung cancer disease burden and 75 per cent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease burden in Australia is caused by tobacco use (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016).
Efforts to support tobacco-free living
The department's activities to support tobacco-free living include:
- developing of resources, training, policies, procedures and guidelines on best practice for embedding smoking cessation as routine care in health services
- developing training materials and resources for the health and human services workforce
- strengthening and expanding existing interpretation and enforcement guidance documents for local council related to the Tobacco Act 1987
- the tobacco information line
- smoking cessation services through the Victorian Quitline
- funding anti-smoking campaigns, integrated across television, radio, print and social media
- funding of the Tobacco Education and Enforcement Program.
For more information on these and other reforms, please visit the department's tobacco reforms page.
Find out more
Tobacco use is discussed in the following links:
- Victorian population health survey 2016
- Cancer Council Victoria's 'Statistics and data'
- Korin Korin Balit-Djak: Aboriginal health, wellbeing and safety strategic plan 2017–27
- Victorian Student Health and Wellbeing Survey, 'About '
- The State of Victoria’s Children Report 2016
For information and support to quit smoking, please visit Quit .
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social survey 2014–15, ABS, Canberra.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016, Australian burden of disease study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2011, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017, National drug strategy household survey 2016: detailed findings, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.
Banks E, Joshy G, Weber M, Liu B and Grenfell R 2015, ‘Tobacco smoking and all-cause mortality in a large Australian cohort study: findings from a mature epidemic with current low smoking prevalence’, BMC Medicine vol. 13, no. 1.
Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer 2018, Victorian secondary school students' use of licit and illicit substances in 2017: results from the 2017 Australian Secondary Students' Alcohol and Drugs (ASSAD) Survey, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne.
Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity 2017, Victoria's mothers, babies and children report 2016, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
Creating Preferred Futures 2018, An analysis of the social costs of smoking in Victoria 2015–16, Creating Preferred Futures, Hobart.
Department of Health and Human Services 2018a, The contribution of risk factors to disease burden in Victoria, 2011: findings from the 2011 Australian Burden of Disease Study, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
Department of Health and Human Services 2018b, Victorian population health survey 2016: selected survey findings, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne.
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation 2017, Global burden of disease, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Seattle.
Jones L, Hashim A, McKeever T, Cook D, Britton J and Leonardi-Bee J 2011, ‘Parental and household smoking and the increased risk of bronchitis, bronchiolitis and other lower respiratory infections in infancy: systematic review and meta-analysis’, Respiratory research, vol. 12, no. 1.
Reviewed 17 April 2023