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Smoking and tobacco control
Tobacco smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. Smoking leads to a wide range of diseases including many types of cancer, heart disease and stroke, chest and lung illnesses and stomach ulcers. It claims the lives of 15,500 Australians every year.
Reducing smoking-related death and illness is a priority of Cancer Council Australia. Its Tobacco Issues Committee has developed a number of position statements, some of which are aimed at helping individuals reduce smoking-related health risk and others of which support Cancer Council’s key tobacco-related advocacy priorities.
Members of the Tobacco Issues Committee include representatives of the National Heart Foundation of Australia, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Australia, the Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH), Quit organisations, and the VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control, as well as Cancer Councils around Australia.
These include the following:
- Passive smoking
- Stopping smoking
- Dangers of 'reduced-harm' cigarettes
- Smoking in movies: counteracting its negative impact on public health
- Plain packaging of tobacco products
- Taxation of tobacco products in Australia
- Tobacco related disparities
Passive smoking causes early death and health problems in children and adults who do not smoke. A smoke-free environment is the only way to fully protect non-smokers from the dangers of second-hand smoke.
This position statement explains passive smoking and its health effects. It highlights the particular danger to hospitality workers and details public support for smoke-free workplaces and public spaces. The statement includes recommendations for reducing health risk by avoiding tobacco smoke.
Stopping smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits, reducing risk of disease and improving general health. While there is no ‘easy fix’ for quitting smoking, there are a number of methods and products available that may help.
This position statement outlines various approaches to stopping smoking and provides general recommendations to assist smokers planning to quit.
For many years, thousands of Australians smoked “light” and “mild” cigarettes in the belief they were consuming products that were less harmful than regular brands. The evidence, however, showed that smoking “light” and “mild” cigarettes was just as harmful as consuming regular brands. In 2005, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission determined that the promotion of “light” and “mild” cigarettes was misleading and ordered that such brands be withdrawn from sale and that the tobacco industry fund compensatory advertising for its deceptive conduct.
Despite the experience of “light” and “mild” brands, the tobacco industry continues to claim that it is developing cigarettes that are less harmful, with some of these products already available overseas. There is insufficient regulation to prevent so-called “reduced-harm” cigarettes from becoming available in Australia.
This position statement summarises the evidence that shows there is no such thing as an independently verified “reduced-harm” cigarette. It includes key recommendations for helping to ensure Australians are not misled into consuming “reduced-harm” cigarettes, including the need for government to establish a mechanism to ensure that any communication about cigarettes – including about their contents or emissions – is evidence-based, complete and in the public interest.
Smoking in movies glamorises and promotes nicotine addiction. Following restrictions to tobacco advertising over recent years, the tobacco industry has increasingly seen film as a medium for promoting its products.
Measures are therefore required to address the negative impact on public health of the depiction of smoking in movies. This position statement explores the evidence base and history of smoking in movies, summarises the key points and includes recommendations from the Cancer Council on how government and non-government organisations can act to reduce the preventable death and disease caused by the promotion of tobacco use through film.
Following increased restrictions on traditional forms of tobacco advertising and promotion in Australia, the cigarette pack has become an increasingly important marketing tool and means of communicating brand quality and image to potential and current smokers.
Reforms to how tobacco products are promoted through packaging are essential to reducing the unacceptable level of death and disability caused by smoking in Australia.
A recent review of the evidence examines research over two decades and across five countries on plain packaging. The review includes results of 24 published studies which have examined the likely impact of plain packaging on young people and current smokers. It also summarises the results of research analysing industry arguments about barriers to legislation resulting from international law and trade agreements.
Cigarette pack plain packaging as released by the Department of Health and Ageing.
This position statement outlines how the tobacco industry uses product packaging to attract new smokers and undermine health warnings. It also discusses Cancer Council Australia’s recommendations to reduce smoking prevalence through changes in tobacco promotion:
- A comprehensive ban on the advertising and promotion of tobacco products, including through the pack itself, is essential to reducing the harm caused by tobacco in Australia;
- The plain packaging of cigarettes would eliminate the tobacco industry’s ability to promote smoking and brand personality through the pack, would reduce rates of smoking initiation and consumption, enhance the effectiveness of pack warnings and remove the pack’s ability to mislead and deceive consumers;
- A survey of 3000 Victorian adults in 2006 found that more than half of the current, former and never smokers surveyed supported plain packaging;
- The Australian government should ban the display on packs of all trademarks, texts and logos, together with all colours and other attractive decorative or design features.
- Only prescribed information and graphics, such as brand names, product names, manufacturer details, the number of cigarettes in a pack, prescribed health warnings and any other government-mandated information for consumers, should be permitted to appear on packs in a prescribed size, font, colour and location.
- Packs should only be permitted to be made from a prescribed material in a standardized, dull colour and shape (inside and outside the pack). The permitted shapes and formats of packs should also be prescribed.
- The use of perfuming, audio chips and any other material not prescribed should be prohibited.
- The display of misleading descriptors and yield information on packs should be banned. Only product names that describe taste should be permitted.
Read about the latest development in our media release on the High Court ruling announced on 15 August 2012.
Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death and disease in Australia.
A report by the World Bank (1999) indicated that tax increases on tobacco products are the single most effective means available to governments to reduce tobacco consumption and prevalence and therefore reduce death and disease due to smoking.
Cancer Council supports a substantial increase in tobacco excise and customs duty in association with:
- the stepping up of campaigns to discourage smoking;
- the funding and implementation of further programs to support smokers to quit (especially targeting low SES groups);
- measures to ensure all smokers for whom nicotine replacement therapy is clinically appropriate are able to afford it; and
- development of measures to minimise growth in tax free and illicit sales of tobacco products in Australia.
While smoking rates across Australia have declined substantially over the past decades to around 17.5% of the population, among the most disadvantaged groups rates are up to five times higher than the population average.
This means that the most disadvantaged groups in Australia bear a disproportionate share of tobacco-related illness.
Reducing smoking rates in these populations is an important and pressing public health issue. This position statement outlines effective strategies for reducing the tobacco-related disease burden in the most highly disadvantaged groups.
This page was last updated on: Tuesday, March 12, 2013