National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

National Tobacco Strategy 2012-2018: Draft for consultation

4.2 What Challenges Remain?

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There are many significant challenges for tobacco control in the coming years.

Almost 15,000 Australians currently die each year from tobacco-related disease leaving grieving partners, children, grandchildren and friends behind.

Smoking rates in our community are still too high with 15.1% of people 14 years or over smoking daily in 2010 and more than 3 million Australians smoking at least daily or weekly in 2010.1

The prevalence of smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults is more than double that of the general population.3 Smoking during pregnancy is common, and exposure of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to environmental tobacco smoke in their homes is high.3

Smoking among people from low socioeconomic and other disadvantaged groups is also much higher than the general population. In 2007, children living in households in the most disadvantaged areas in Australia were more than three times more likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke in the home compared to those living in the most advantaged areas.27

While smoking rates have markedly declined among secondary school students, in 2008 more than 110,000 secondary school students had smoked at least one cigarette in the week prior to the survey20 and around 16,500 Australian school children progressed from experimental to established smoking behaviour.a

There is strong evidence of an association between social determinants, such as unemployment, homelessness, poverty and family breakdown, and drug use. Family influences also have a strong association with drug use.21 Many of the factors that underlie social disadvantage are also strongly predictive of smoking uptake.30

In 2010, daily smoking prevalence among prisoners was estimated at 74 per cent with extremely high exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.31 Smoking prevalence among people with mental illness is also very high,9 with estimates of around 73 per cent of men and 56 per cent of women with psychosis smoking.12

Mass media campaigns are highly effective components of tobacco control programs,32 second only to price increases.b The media environment in Australia is changing rapidly and campaigns must adapt to a range of communication challenges and opportunities such as the rapid growth in free to air channels and the increasing importance of subscription television, the internet and social media.

Australia has successfully prevented the emergence of widespread illicit trade in tobacco as has occurred in some other countries. Continued effort is required to prevent an increase in the availability and use of illicit tobacco products including ‘chop chop’ (loose leaf) and contraband cigarettes.

There are currently few controls on the manufacturing, distribution and availability of tobacco in Australia. Despite the harm associated with tobacco use, it remains as widely available as commonplace items like bread and milk. Apart from state and territory legislation in some jurisdictions that prohibits fruit and confectionery flavoured cigarettes, there are no regulatory controls on the ingredients in tobacco in Australia.

There is concern that current policy arrangements for product disclosure are inadequate. There is also concern regarding the availability and promotion of non therapeutic nicotine devices such as e-cigarettes, and whether the current regulatory framework is providing sufficient coverage of these products.

Finally, implementing the actions in this draft Strategy will require a commitment to maintaining existing partnerships, and building new ones. Tobacco control like other public health initiatives requires sustained effort and comprehensive approaches to be effective. There is no quick fix.

a Using the methodology outlined in White and Scollo29
b International readers should note this relates to policies in a country where tobacco advertising has already been banned.

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