Mount Druitt in NSW and two suburbs in Hobart have the worst smoking rates in the nation, though overall national rates of daily smokers are down from 40% in the 1970s to 14%.
The results of the Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute study revealed the suburbs which have smoking rates at levels as high as they were in the 1970s. Bridgewater (TAS), Risdon Vale (TAS), Mount Druitt (NSW), Elizabeth (SA) and Tamworth (NSW) have the highest rates, ranging from 30-40%.
The study also revealed the suburbs with the lowest smoking rates, including Gordon (NSW), Lindfield (NSW), Burnside (SA) and Cottesloe (WA), which ranged from 6.6-7.5%.
Whilst overall rates have lowered dramatically over the decades to the point where Australia has one of the lowest smoking rates in the world, some suburbs are finding it difficult to quit the habit. In Bridgewater, for instance, rates of death due to preventable smoking-related illness are 3.5 times higher than the average suburb.
This data has prompted demand for new anti-smoking campaigns across the nation, especially aimed at targeting high-risk suburbs. Smoking statistics are heavily influenced by social factors such as peer pressure and family modelling which need to be addressed in any future campaigns.
The Australian Council on Smoking and Health says that reform is necessary to prevent high-risk suburbs from being left behind. While increased taxation and plain packaging laws are useful, more needs to be done.
The council suggests that reform look at strategies such as improving access to health resources for people trying to quit, and social media and national TV campaigns to change perceptions of smoking.
There is also concern that tobacco companies are normalising smoking by targeting young people through promoting it via social media channels like Instagram as a glamorous and trendy behaviour.
The council has called on the Federal Government to strengthen legislation in order to prohibit tobacco companies from using these strategies.
The last national anti-smoking campaign was held in 2013, with the Federal Government having received $12 billion in tobacco tax revenue this year alone.