Carolyn Young from Tamworth writes about the dangers of smoking.
IMAGINE if two passenger planes on the Sydney-to-Melbourne route crashed each week of every year, killing all on board.
If that was the case and you had any sense, then you wouldn’t board a plane on that route, knowing that there was a high risk that you might be the next statistic.
Would we demand the government to stop the carnage? Would we expect an immediate change in the regulations and policies that safeguard our lives?
Yes, we would.
Many people (about 290) die directly from smoking every week of every year in Australia.
They do not make the headlines on the news. They die quietly, slowly and privately.
And our – and the government’s – response is also quiet, slow and, for the most part, private, without much media hype at all.
You have all heard these statistics before and many of you will just move right on along to the next article.
But just stop and consider this for a minute.
According to the Cancer Council, active smoking causes about 15,500 deaths each year, with 5100 of those in NSW alone.
The social cost of tobacco use in Australia in 2004-05 was estimated to be $31.5 billion, an increase of $10.4 billion since 1999.
Australia has about 5.3 million smokers, who smoke, on average, 18 cigarettes per day, or a total of 34.8 billion cigarettes each year.
If smokers accepted the full responsibility for their smoking (that is, they paid the full social cost that is paid by all of our citizens, whether they smoke or not), then every pack of cigarettes should cost $585.00.
Tobacco use caused 14.8 per cent of all Australian deaths among men, and 8.4 per cent of deaths in women, in 2003.
In 2010, one in five men between the ages of 30 and 49 smoked, as did one in five woman between the ages of 30 and 39.
What is more concerning is that 7 per cent of Australian children between the ages of 12 and 17 smoke.
Even worse is that in NSW, 16.7 per cent of 17-year-old boys, and 14.3 per cent of 17-year-old girls, smoke.
These are the statistics behind the government’s new plain-packaging law.
Cigarette plain packaging is the first step in a long process to reduce smoking-related mortality in Australia.
Although the tobacco industry is in decline, they won’t go down without a fight.
It is sickening to hear that one company has created an inventive way of keeping one step ahead of the plain-packaging regulations, which are due to come into effect at the end of the year.
The Peter Stuyvesant Company has now made available for sale metal packets, which may not be prohibited as they are for sale prior to the regulations being enforced.
The plain-packaging law will not stop people from using the metal packet to hold their cigarettes.
This move by Peter Stuyvesant is a ploy to engage young people who are fashion- and label-savvy and who are already addicted to cigarettes. Our young Australians are being encouraged to continue with their addiction by this company.
Rather than acting responsibly, by accepting that their product causes a huge personal, social and economic loss for our nation and its citizens, the company is courting controversy which will no doubt help their profitability.
As we all know, there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Smoking is an addiction.
There is no safe level of smoking, according to Professor David Currow of the Cancer Institute NSW.
Seventeen per cent of smokers describe themselves as social smokers, lighting up when they are out with friends. This is problematic, as social smoking is usually accompanied by drinking and you can lose count of just how many cigarettes you have.
However, Professor Currow said: “At present, we have no way of knowing how readily a person will become addicted to nicotine until after the event – when they have become addicted. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to mankind, so experimenting is not smart.”
According to Professor Currow, the good news is that as soon as we stop smoking, our body starts recovering.
“Within 12 hours of your final cigarette, blood carbon monoxide levels are much lower, and a year later your risk of coronary heart disease will be half what it was as a smoker. If you quit before the age of 35, your life expectancy will be much the same as someone who has never smoked. But whatever age you are, there are a myriad of benefits to be had in quitting,” he said.
Many people think that plain packaging is just another “nanny state” law introduced by the government.
However, those citizens who do not smoke would be horrified to realise that their taxes are being diverted away from education, transport and infrastructure and towards funding an avoidable social cost and health bill.
If you or one of your family members, including your children, smokes, don’t kid yourself. You or they are probably already addicted to nicotine. You or they will need support to quit.
There are many groups that are experts in helping people to give up smoking. Some online suggestions are I Can Quit – Cancer Institute NSW, Quit Now – federal government, Benefits of Quitting Smoking – NSW Health, Getting Ready to Quit – NSW Health, or call the Quitline on 13 78 48.
Don’t be another statistic, and certainly don’t support companies that encourage nicotine addiction for their own financial bottom line, because, in the end, that is all they are interested in.