Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A (partial) spring in my step

According to a newly published peer reviewed study conducted by the Cancer Council of Victoria into Australia's plain cigarette packaging laws, those smokers surveyed reported an increased desire to quit the habit and reduced enjoyment of smoking.

As I've written on this blog before, the tobacco industry, which is also disputing the findings of this study, campaigned strongly against these reforms, but the Australian government proceeded with them anyway.
Now it seems safe to say that its actions have been vindicated.

According to research cited by Action on Smoking and Health Australia, tobacco kills around 15,000 Australians a year, which is more than the combined death toll from road accidents, alcohol, illicit drugs, all homicide, HIV, diabetes, skin cancer, and more. Tobacco smoking is the biggest single preventable cause of both cancer and heart disease, which are the two leading causes of early death in Australia; and is linked with the seven diseases causing most deaths.

Tobacco is responsible for more than $31 billion a year in costs to the Australian community. Tobacco is responsible each year for:
  • Around 15,000 deaths (not including secondhand smoke exposure, which may be up to 2,000 more); average 36 deaths a year aged under 15.
  • 56% of total drug abuse costs - more than alcohol and all other drugs combined.  
  • Over $15 billion in workplace costs - twice as much as alcohol and all other drugs combined.
  • Over 750,000 hospital bed days - around 8% of them occupied by children under 15.
  • Over $600 million in hospital costs.
You might read this and think that individuals' lifestyle choices are none of my business. and that I'm being a wowser and a killjoy. If people want to smoke it's their choice. As a taxpayer, I have the right to speak on this issue. This is a public health issue. Through the Medicare system, a portion of my taxes contribute towards running Australia's public health system, and therefore treating people suffering from tobacco related health problems.

As you can see from the bullet points above, the costs are staggering, running into millions of dollars per year. That is millions of dollars in health funding that could have been used to employ more doctors and nurses, reduce elective surgery waiting lists, or build more health care facilities. Instead it has to be used to deal with the damage this immoral industry inflicts upon society.


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