It appears that the government is winning the war against smoking, with smoking rates officially reaching an all-time low in 2019. A survey of the Australian adult population (aged 18+) found that approximately 15.1% of adult Australians fit the criteria of a smoker. This is slightly above the UK at 14.4%, but below the US and Canada, both of whom come in at over 16%.
There is even more promising data coming out Victoria, where only 10.7% of adults smoke daily, down from 13.5% in 2015. While the trends are certainly positive, what is concerning is the fact that decades of past smoking behaviour appear to be catching up with older Australians.
Cardiovascular disease on the rise
A recent study, published in BMC Medicine, has found that current smokers have a five-fold increase in developing peripheral vascular disease. Having said this, the most recent data is also showing the rise in cardiovascular disease occurrence.
The research group assessed the health of over 188 000 people older than 45 years over a period of approximately 7.2 years. From their results, the researchers estimate that every year, smoking-related heart disease causing 11 400 hospital visits and over 6 400 people dying. On average, out of 36 cases of cardiovascular disease, 29 cases can be attributed smoking habits.
Cutting back or quitting?
In the same study, researchers found that simply cutting back had negligible effects on minimising the risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, Australians who smoked between 4 to 6 cigarettes a day almost doubled their chances of dying from a cardiovascular condition, compared to those that had never smoked.
Is there good news?
There is still some good news for smokers, particularly those who may think it is futile to stop now. Quitting drastically reduces your health risks. For example, those who quit before the age of 45 cut their cardiovascular health risks by a whopping 95%.
Health Minister, Greg Hunt, also recently announced a national prevention strategy designed to curb smoking rates and discourage ongoing habits. Such action could drive smoking rates to well below 10%, while also addressing other social issues like poverty.