Three Hobart suburbs have shared top spot on an unenviable list – the areas with the highest proportion of smokers in the country.
About 40 per cent of residents in Bridgewater and Gagebrook (on Hobart’s northern outskirts) smoke, according to data from health policy think tank Mitchell Institute at Victoria University.
Not far behind is Risdon Vale, also in Hobart, which was the second worst performing suburb in the country at 34.4 per cent – making it equivalent to the national rate more than 30 years ago.
This compares to the national average adult rate of 14 per cent smoking daily.
“Smoking kills, and it looks like six times more people in Bridgewater/Gagebrook in greater Hobart are going to die from illness caused by smoking than in Kur-ing-Gai in inner Sydney,” health policy lead Ben Harris said on Friday, World No Tobacco Day.
Other suburbs to feature prominently for high numbers of smokers were Mount Druitt in NSW, at 31.2 per cent, and the South Australian suburbs of Elizabeth, Salisbury, Elizabeth North, all at 31.1 per cent.
By contrast, upper northern Sydney suburbs of Gordon, Killara, Pymble had Australia’s lowest rates of smokers – just 6.6 per cent.
The next door suburbs of Lindfield and Roseville ranked second best in the nation at 7.2 per cent, with nearby Epping, North Epping, Pennant Hills and Cheltenham third.
Australians with mental health conditions are more than twice as likely to be smokers as the general population, the institute reveals.
Mr Harris said where a person lived, their education and friends influenced smoking rates. He urged governments to channel funding to the communities most in need of quitting.
“We know that dramatic declines in the national smoking rates over the decades have coincided with investment in the Quit campaign,” Mr Harris said.
“There is an opportunity to use this new local information to target the Quit campaign and supporting health services.”
The Australian Council on Smoking and Health said more needed to be done to ensure suburbs like Bridgewater and Mount Druitt were not left behind.
Chief executive Maurice Swanson told the ABC that strategies such as plain packaging laws and increased taxation on tobacco were effective, but not enough.
The council also wants the federal government to prohibit strategies used by tobacco companies to normalise smoking, and stronger legislation.
“The tobacco industry continues to ruthlessly promote smoking in Australia and internationally by any means possible,” he told the ABC.
“We are especially concerned that the tobacco industry is now using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote its products to young people as an attractive and glamorous behaviour.”