Smoking is a major public health issue worldwide, and Australia is no different. Despite strong public health efforts and strict laws, smoking is still a serious danger to Australians. What are various risks related to smoking? 

Overview of Smoking in Australia

Australia has achieved notable progress in the fight against smoking, thanks to comprehensive public health campaigns and stringent anti-smoking legislation. As a testament to these efforts, beginning 1 March 2024, South Australia enforced new laws banning smoking and vaping in various public outdoor areas. These actions are in alignment with the regulations set in the South Australian Tobacco and E-Cigarette Products Act 1997, aimed at reducing the dangers of passive tobacco smoke and exposure to e-cigarette aerosols among non-smokers.

Despite such proactive measures, a significant segment of the Australian population continues to smoke, thereby endangering their health and the health of others around them.

Understanding What’s in a Cigarette

Cigarette smoke is a mixture of harmful chemicals, encompassing nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, arsenic, and lead, among others. These substances negatively affect virtually every organ in the body, leading to a wide range of health problems.

Immediate Health Risks of Smoking

The immediate effects of smoking are concerning, as smokers often encounter a faster heart rate, higher blood pressure, and elevated levels of carbon monoxide in their blood. The impact on respiratory health is also immediate, characterised by coughing, wheezing, and an increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.

Long-term Health Risks of Smoking

The long-term health consequences of smoking are severe, including chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, various cancers, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These illnesses greatly reduce the quality of life and can significantly shorten life expectancy.

Smoking and Cancer

The link between smoking and cancer is clear and undeniable. Many cancer cases are directly attributed to smoking, with throat, mouth, bladder, and kidney cancers being among the most common types caused by this habit. Lung cancer stands as the leading cause of cancer-related deaths around the world, with a significant majority of these cases being linked to smoking.

In Australia, approximately 90% of lung cancer cases in men and 65% in women are estimated to result from tobacco smoking.

Smoking and Cardiovascular Health

Smoking severely affects the cardiovascular system, heightening the risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. The harm smoking causes to arteries, and the heart is a major cause of mortality among smokers.

Smoking and Respiratory Health

Smoking primarily damages the lungs, putting smokers at risk for serious conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. Smokers are also more vulnerable to respiratory infections, which can further deteriorate lung health.

The Impact of Smoking on Mental Health

Recent studies highlight a complicated link between smoking and mental health, indicating that smokers are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and stress. The addiction to nicotine and the difficulties of withdrawal can worsen mental health problems.

Passive Smoking Risks

Passive smoke poses significant health risks, not just being an inconvenience but a serious threat, particularly to children, non-smokers, and pets. Being exposed to second-hand smoke can result in various health issues and even cause premature death.

The Financial Cost of Smoking in Australia

The economic impact of smoking on individuals and the Australian healthcare system is significant. Smokers spend a considerable part of their income on cigarettes, while the country shoulders the expenses associated with smoking-related healthcare needs.

Changes in affordability of cigarettes over time in Australia

Quitting Smoking

Quitting smoking brings immediate and lasting health advantages, including better heart health and a reduced risk of cancer. Australia is rich in resources for those wishing to stop smoking, offering national helplines, government initiatives, and community support groups.

The dangers of smoking are undeniable threats to health and wellness. Ceasing smoking is perhaps the most crucial action an individual can take to enhance their health. With the extensive support available in Australia, now is an excellent time to quit.

If you or someone you know is prepared to quit smoking, many resources are ready to assist you on this path. Contact national helplines, explore trustworthy websites, and join local support groups to begin your journey to a healthier, smoke-free existence.

Australia’s dedication to decreasing smoking rates remains strong. By recognising the risks and deciding to quit, we can contribute to a healthier future for ourselves and future generations.