Report on Smoke-Free Policies in Australia
Introduction Tobacco use is the leading cause of death and disease in Australia. Each year nearly 20 000 Australians die and more than 150 000 are hospitalized due to tobacco-related illnesses (1). The economic and social costs of tobacco use in Australia are estimated at $AU 12,736.2 million per annum (2).
In 2001, approximately 22% of Australian adults were smokers (3). Australian males (24.3%) are more likely to smoke than Australian females (19.9%), with adult smok-ing rates peaking in the 20–29-year age group (4). Young Australians are still taking up smoking at a disconcerting rate, with 260 000 students aged 12–17 estimated to be smokers (5). Around one-third of 17-year-old students smoke.
Smoking rates are significantly higher in some disadvan-taged groups in the Australian community. People from lower socioeconomic brackets, people with mental illnesses and some ethnic communities such as Greek, Vietnamese and Eastern Mediterranean, all have substantially higher smoking rates than the general population (6,7,8). Of particular concern is the smoking rate among indigenous Australians, which is over double the rate of the over-all Australian population: 53% of indigenous males and 43.6% of indigenous females are smokers (9). While smoking prevalence in the general Australian population is declining, there have not been corresponding decreases in smoking prevalence in these high-risk groups.