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Call for renewed anti-smoking message

More than 250,000 Australian smokers will die from cancer in the next 25 years, advocates warn, as they lament the country’s lack of anti-smoking campaigns.

Their prediction stems from expert modelling, ringing alarm bells for the 11 per cent of Australian adults who smoke every day.

A Daffodil Centre study – a joint venture by the Cancer Council and the University of Sydney – found that almost one in five cancer deaths in the country will be directly attributable to smoking from 2020 to 2044.

The research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health last month, reveals the overall number of smoking-related cancer deaths will increase by 29 per cent for men and 36 per cent for women.

Daffodil Centre director and study co-author Karen Canfell says the deaths could be prevented if Australia prioritises smoking as a public health issue.

“Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of cancer mortality by a wide margin,” she said.

Professor Canfell said most of the projected deaths from smoking would occur from cancers in “lung, oesophageal and respiratory sites”, but other organs such as the pancreas, liver and bladder would also be affected.

The researchers collated data on the number of cancer deaths in Australia from 1955 to 2019 from the World Health Organisation’s Mortality Database.

They also used data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the National Drug Strategy Household Survey for 2007-2019.

The chair of the Cancer Council’s national public health committee, Anita Dessaix, said the research sent an urgent message to political leaders that smoking must be tackled anew.

“We face 250,000 smoking-caused cancer deaths due to complacency in policy reform and a lack of anti-smoking campaigns in recent years,” she said.

“Anti-smoking campaigns have been one of the most effective public health measures in Australia.

“We need urgent action from the federal government if we want to have any chance at avoiding just some of these preventable cancer deaths.”

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