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Victorian smoking rates down to 13%

Kate Hagan

Published: August 6, 2013 – 12:00AM

Smoking rates in Victoria continue to fall with just 13 per cent of Victorians now smoking regularly and young people turning their back on the habit, new figures show.

Cancer Council Victoria research to be released on Tuesday shows 13.3 per cent of Victorians were regular smokers who inhaled weekly or more often last year, down from 14.4 per cent in 2011.

The smoking rates are the lowest since the Cancer Council started collecting the data in 1998, when 21.2 per cent were regular smokers, and the 58.2 per cent of Victorians who had never smoked was the highest. More than 70 per cent of young people aged 18 to 29 had never smoked, a much higher rate than for older Victorians.

The research showed that men (16 per cent) were more likely to be smokers than women (11.2 per cent). Also more likely to be smokers were older Victorians, those with lower levels of education and in lower socioeconomic groups.

Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkie said particularly pleasing was a “narrowing of the gap” between smoking rates in Victorians of low and high socioeconomic status.

“We’ve seen declines across all age groups and socioeconomic groups in recent years but the acceleration in the decline in smoking rates among Victoria’s most disadvantaged communities and young people is very encouraging,” she said.

“Highly emotive anti-smoking advertising campaigns have been shown to have the greatest impact on low socioeconomic groups and is the result of long-term investment from both state and federal governments. We need to see that investment sustained . . . for this decline to continue.”

Quit policy manager Kylie Lindorff said tax hikes were another measure proven to impact smoking rates, particularly among lower income earners.

She welcomed the federal government’s move last week to increase the tobacco excise by 12.5 per cent a year from December and expected plain packaging would also deliver dividends in coming years, but said there was plenty more work to do.

“It’s often thought that we’ve done so well on tobacco control, we’ve won the battle, but we still have about 4000 Victorians every year dying from tobacco-related illnesses so we can’t afford to be complacent,” Ms Lindorff said.

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