WEST Tamworth are the state’s heaviest smokers, according to figures ranking health issues by postcode.
The new data found 29.6 per cent of people – over 18 years old – living the West Tamworth area were daily smokers, nearly double the statewide average of 16.2 per cent.
For the whole Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) local government area, the smoking average was 21.3 per cent.
North Tamworth has the lowest rate of smokers with just 19.4 per cent lighting up on a daily basis.
The figures were released by the Australia Health Policy Collaboration in the 2016 Australia’s Health Trackers map, giving a full report-card on statistics including smoking rates, alcohol consumption, obesity and blood pressure.
While Tamworth was revealed to have relatively high rates of daily smoking, Heart Foundation director of cardiovascular health, Julie-Anne Mitchell said attitudes toward smoking had shifted.
“We certainly know rural and remote people are more than two times more likely to have greater daily smoking rates than their city counterparts,” Ms Mitchell said.
“We’ve seen a huge attitude shift.
“It’s taken 50 years to turn the tide… But, there’s more to be done.”
Ms Mitchell did commend Tamworth Regional Council on its smoke-free CBD initiative, which has been in place for just under a year.
“Tamworth should be congratulated for leadership in making the CBD smoke-free,” she said.
“It’s something we would like to see scaled up across NSW.”
Ms Mitchell said there was a complex range of reasons for higher smoking rates in rural areas.
Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) said the attitude towards smoking has shifted in the region.
Council manager of regulatory services, Ross Briggs, said TRC is still yet to hand down a fine for a CBD smoking breach.
“Smokers have been good at adapting to the smoke-free rules and in a handful of situations where someone has been smoking where they should not, community members have become confident to ask for a cigarette to be put out,” Mr Briggs said.
Council adopted its Smoke-Free Environment Policy in November 2015 after an extensive community consultation revealed a majority of residents supported the idea because they wanted to enjoy outdoor areas without being exposed to second-hand smoke.
Anyone who disregards no smoking sign or a warning issued by a regulatory officer risks a fine of up to $300.
While an attitude shift in the community has been noted, TRC said they have not received any “requests from the community consider introducing additional smoke-free zones”.