The staggering human health cost of tobacco use in Australia has been paired with a dollar figure, in two pieces of research released this week that further illustrate the dangers of smoking.
One in eight deaths could be linked to smoking, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released on Thursday.
And it’s costing the country $136.9 billion a year, the National Drug Research Institute found, in data released on Tuesday.
More than 20,000 people die because of smoking every year, with the drug claiming the lives of more men than women.
And then there’s the surviving smokers – the data shows they will go on to live with conditions like cancer and coronary heart conditions, and many will suffer strokes.
Both sets of research anchor on data gathered from 2015.
The AIHW figures come from investigating the burden of tobacco use on Australia – not just directly linking deaths to the costly habit.
The institute studied the burden of smoking on the population in two ways: How it contributed to premature death, and how many years a smoker lived in ill health for (creating a non-fatal burden).
Institute spokesman Richard Juckes said tobacco was consistently the leading contributor to early deaths and ill health in Australia.
“(It was) responsible for 9.3 per cent of the total burden of disease in Australia in 2015,” Mr Juckes said in a release on Thursday morning.
His statement went on to say that 43 per cent of tobacco-related disease burden was traced back to cancer, and the majority of that was lung cancer.
The figures might seem confronting when taken at face value. But there’s some good news to come out of the analysis.
We’re one of the best countries when it comes to making significant reductions in our smoking rates – in 2016, only 12 per cent of Aussie adults reported smoking daily. This almost halved from 15 years previously.
This sharp drop looks good for future tobacco burden stats. Between 2003 and 2015, burden rates fell 24 per cent.
It’s expected to drop another 10 per cent over the next five years.
In dollar terms
The National Drug Research Institute teamed with a handful of universities to calculate the cost of smoking to the Australian community, the first time we’ve seen a dollar figure put on the habit in 15 years.
The $136.9 billion figure was released earlier this week, a combination of $19.2 billion in direct costs and intangible costs of $117.7 billion.
Direct costs were measured as the direct hit to a smoker’s wallet, reduced productivity and employee absence, the cost of caring for someone with a smoking-relation disease, and hospital admission linked to smoking-related conditions.
The intangible costs included years of life lost due to premature death from smoking, and a reduced quality of life from living with a disease linked to tobacco.