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Smokers get lung cancer reminder

The Sydney Morning Herald November 22, 2007

Victorian health authorities will recycle a confronting anti-smoking campaign, after new research revealed most smokers did not identify lung cancer as a disease they could develop.

Research from the Cancer Council Victoria shows that despite smoking accounting for 80 per cent of all lung cancer cases, six in 10 smokers did not mention it when asked to name diseases caused by smoking.

The five-year survival rate for lung cancer sufferers is just 11 per cent, and 34 Victorians each week die from the disease, according to the Cancer Council.

The council’s Professor David Hill said deaths from lung cancer had decreased in recent years, though more specific data was not immediately available.

The council and anti-smoking body Quit on Monday relaunched their 23-year-old television advertisement showing a smoker’s lung, represented by a sponge, filling with tar and being squeezed out into a beaker.

Also, the Victorian government announced an extra $5.6 million boost to anti-smoking marketing.

Victorian Premier John Brumby said advertising was proving to be an effective tool in the fight against smoking with 46 per cent of successful quitters listing mass media as a prompt for quitting.

The government aims to reduce Victoria’s smoking rate from 17.4 per cent to 14 per cent by 2013.

Higher targets will be set for disadvantaged groups, including Aborigines, whose smoking rates are higher.

The figures show the proportion of smokers who spontaneously identified smoking as a cause of lung cancer had decreased by 25 per cent over three years.

Quit executive director Fiona Sharkie said “reinventing” the sponge campaign would help deliver the lung cancer message to a new generation of smokers.

“Back in the early 80s there were no distinct trends that we could really identify in smoking rates … about a third of the population were smokers,” Ms Sharkie said.

“But the original sponge ad was a real turning point on tobacco control, it was the first time smokers were shown the effects smoking had on their health in a graphic and uncompromising way.

“And as a result of that, smoking rates dropped significantly.”

Victorian Health Minister Daniel Andrews said the data showed more work was needed to stop people smoking and the extra money announced on Monday would bring the government’s total expenditure on social marketing and Quit campaigns to $10 million.

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