Slashing smoking rates by just 2 per cent in Australia could save nearly 100,000 lives.
New research shows cutting the rate to 10 per cent by 2025 would achieve that figure, prompting the Cancer Council to put further pressure on governments to revive tobacco campaigns.
Currently more than 12 per cent of Aussies smoke daily, with an extra 3 per cent smoking less frequently.
The research by Cancer Council NSW shows reducing rates could prevent 97,432 lung cancer deaths by 2100.
If smoking rates were reduced to 5 per cent, that figure would rise to more than 200,000 lung cancer deaths.
Recent Australian data has shown the decline in smoking rates had slowed.
The Cancer Council is concerned that state and federal governments are becoming complacent.
They are calling for a national comprehensive tobacco control strategy that includes:
• Setting targets to achieve declines in smoking prevalence.
• Renewed and significant national investment in hard-hitting anti-tobacco ads like the “Every cigarette is doing you damage” campaign.
• New laws to regulate product design and ingredients to stop the tobacco industry finding new ways to entice new young smokers.
The organisation’s public health committee chair Anita Dessaix said while not all lung cancers were caused by smoking, tobacco remained the biggest preventable factor behind Australia’s number one cancer killer.
“Smoking doesn’t just cause most lung cancers, it also causes many other cancer types, as well as cardiovascular disease, emphysema and multiple other chronic and fatal conditions,” she said.
“Around 2.5 million Australians still smoke and two in three of them will die prematurely from smoking if they don’t quit.
“This study just shows the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential number of lives the next Australian Government, in fact all state and territory governments, could save if tobacco control was made a priority again.
“With an election campaign imminent, federal MPs and candidates have an ideal opportunity to show their commitment to reducing smoking in our communities based on doing more of what works.”
Alysha Lambert lost her dad Peter in June, 2015 after he suffered several heart attacks between the age of 38 and 66, brought on by smoking.
She was just two when he suffered his first one as a pack-a-day smoker. He quit but didn’t adhere to his medication.
“Dying of a heart attack or disease shouldn’t be considered normal,” she said.
The latest research findings also coincide with an Australian Government review of tobacco legislation.
Ms Dessaix said more needed to be done to protect future generations from big tobacco.
“There has also been a stall in the tobacco legislative reform agenda since plain packaging was introduced,” she said.
“The next Australian government will be well-placed to work with all jurisdictions on implementing a new National Tobacco Strategy.”
The new study estimated that previous tobacco control measures introduced since 1956 had already saved almost 79,000 people from dying from a preventable lung cancer.
Smoking rates have halved over the past 25 years.
The indications are that tobacco control measures have put Australia on a trajectory to potentially save almost two million lives from lung cancer alone by 2100.