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Call for more action on youth smoking as research finds 43,000 teens become hooked on cigarettes each year

Monday 16 June, 2003

Quit Victoria has called for new measures to address youth smoking following the release of new figures estimating that around 43,000 teenagers become regular smokers each year in Australia.

Researchers at The Cancer Council Victoria have estimated that around 43,000 teenagers smokers move from experimental smokers to established smokers each year.

The new research is based on figures released last year which found that across Australia, just under 269,000 school students aged between 12 to 17 are current smokers.

The new figures, published in the latest issue of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, estimate that as around one in two long-term smokers die prematurely as a result of their smoking, about 11,000 (or around one quarter) of teenagers who are regular smokers now will die prematurely because of their smoking.

However, the researchers say that reducing the number of teenagers who are becoming regular smokers by as little as 10% would save lives in the long term.

Quit Victoria Executive Director Todd Harper has called for a range of measures to address the problem, including:

  • introducing smoking bans in all public places, and ensuring underage events are smokefree;
  • cigarettes to be removed from display in shops and sold 'under the counter';
  • the introduction of a licensing system for tobacco retailers, similar to that which exists for alcohol retailers;
  • ending all remaining forms of tobacco marketing; and
  • more advertising campaigns to encourage adults to quit.

Mr Harper says youth smoking is a highly complex issue and stronger measures are necessary to achieve falls in youth smoking rates.

'This new research has found that every week in Australia, around 820 teenagers are crossing the line from experimenting to regular smoking. This is a serious public health issue which simply cannot be ignored by government and the community.'

'Victoria has made tremendous gains in tackling smoking in recent years, and further measures would provide an opportunity to create a healthier future for our young people.'

'School education is one element of the range of measures required, however, schools are already doing excellent work in addressing the issue of smoking.'

'We need to use legislation and policy measures to create an environment outside schools that reinforces the messages our children are learning there.'

Reference: How many children take up smoking each year in Australia? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Vol 27 no 3, June 2003

Further information:
Zoe Furman
Media Communications Manager

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