According to a recent study, in Australia up to two-thirds of deaths of current smokers can be attributed to their smoking habit. The study titled “Tobacco smoking and all-cause mortality in a large Australian cohort study: findings from a mature epidemic with current low smoking prevalence,” raises an important public health alarm for the dangers of smoking.
Findings published this week in the journal BMC Medicine revealed that cessation reduces mortality compared with ongoing smoking habits, with cessation earlier in life resulting in greater reductions. “While Australia is a world leader in tobacco control, the battle to reduce the public health consequences of tobacco use is far from over,” Laureate Professor Alan Lopez, Director, of the Global Burden of Disease Group, University of Melbourne said in a recent news release.
“While this is gratifying, it is still 13 percent too many; 2.7 million Australians still smoke,” Professor Lopez said in response to Australia’s success in cutting population smoking among men from 70% to 13% after World War Two.
“Our findings revealed that up to two in every three Australians who smoke can be expected to die from their habit if they don’t quit. Their risk of dropping dead at any age is three times that of non-smokers,” he said. “These are enormous risks and highlight the importance of government staying the course on tobacco control. Local tobacco control policy ought to be more responsive to this new and compelling local evidence.”
In the researchers’ prospective study, a total of 204,953 individuals aged ≥45 years from the general population in Australia took part in the 45 and up Study. From 2006–2009 a total of 5,593 people died. From these, 7.7% of participants were current smokers and 34.1% past smokers at baseline. Compared to never-smokers, in current smokers the adjusted RR of mortality was 2.96.
Results also showed that the adjusted RR in mortality increased with an increase in smoking intensity, with around two- and four-fold increases in mortality in current smokers of ≤14 and ≥25 cigarettes/day, in comparison to never-smokers.
“It is a huge wake-up call for Australia. We know smoking is the cause of a wide range of diseases but we now have direct evidence from Australia that shows just how hazardous it is. Even ten cigarettes a day will double your risk of dying prematurely. Smokers greatly underestimate or do not understand the seriousness of these risks,” said Professor Emily Banks, Scientific Director of the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study and the lead investigator of the research.
Smoking is a leading cause of heart attacks, stroke and peripheral vascular disease and is also the main cause of about one-quarter of all cancer deaths.