Clean air, butt-free beaches, and a cancer free future? Yes, please, writes Katie Clift of the Queensland Cancer Council.
Name a product that kills up to half of all its users, and sometimes anyone who inhales its by-product. It contains more than 4000 chemicals and at least 50 of them cause cancer.
Yes, that’s right, it’s tobacco.
For those of you who are smokers, this isn’t a rant. We know that most of you want to quit, and we’re here to help.
We’re also here to prevent others from taking up the habit, and to protect the public from harmful exposure to second-hand smoke.
You might have heard the recent noise about tobacco tax hikes, e-cigarettes, and plain packaging – with Big Tobacco lobbying loudly to keep smokers addicted and convince governments that regulation is ineffective.
The fact is, regulation works, with recent Australian Bureau of Statistics data revealing that the total consumption of tobacco and cigarettes in the March quarter 2014 was the lowest ever recorded in Australia.
So what does that mean for Queensland, and what else can we do to stop smoking?
Firstly, we need to ban e-cigarettes. Why? Because little is known about their health impacts, owing to a lack of long-term scientific evidence to support their safety or quality. And also because evidence suggests that young people who use e-cigarettes are nearly twice as likely to intend smoking conventional cigarettes — an outcome that would destroy our recent progress on tobacco control and diminish the future health of Queensland.
Secondly, we need new laws to create smoke free spaces. Why? To nudge smokers to quit, or, at the very least, to smoke less, and also to protect by-standers from breathing in the toxins in second-hand smoke, toxins that are particularly dangerous to the health of children and young people.
But why else? To improve liveability, to promote healthier community and recreational spaces, and to end the tobacco litter that taints our coastlines and city streets.
Did you know that cigarette butts, with all their chemical toxins, can take up to 10 years to break down? About 20 million of them are discarded thoughtlessly each year, polluting our parks and playgrounds.
Another good reason for the State Government to introduce smoke free spaces is to save the lives of the estimated 3,400 Queenslanders who die from tobacco-related disease each year. Note that about 300 of these deaths are non-smokers, who die due to second-hand smoke exposure.
Cancer Council has called on the State Government to urgently introduce new laws creating designating smoke free public places across Queensland — at bus stops, taxi ranks, ferry terminals and pedestrian malls.
Smoke free spaces are a strong choice that we can’t afford not to make. It’s our best guarantee to protect Queenslanders from the harmful effects of smoking, encourage more smokers to quit, and prevent more young people from taking up the lethal habit.
There’s also one other reason to support smoke free spaces — just for a breath of fresh air.
Smokers can obtain free information, practical assistance and support from Quitline, 13 QUIT (13 7848), or call Cancer Council Helpline with any questions about e-cigarettes, tobacco tax hikes or laws on 13 11 20.