Australia’s 2.5 million smokers not jobless and dumb: research

Most Australian smokers are employed, in good health and have completed year 12, a study has found.

Most Australian smokers are employed, in good health and have completed year 12, a study has found. Photo: AAP

Australia’s 2.5 million daily smokers aren’t the jobless and dumb some would have them portrayed as and quit-smoking material needs to better reflect this, researchers say.

A first-of-its-kind national study released on Monday paints a clearer picture of how smoking affects the whole community.

About 70 per cent of daily smokers are in employment, about 76 per cent are in good physical and mental health and more than two-thirds completed year 12.

Men make up 60 per cent of smokers while 65 per cent live in major cities, and 92 per cent are non-Indigenous.

Previous studies have focused on the differences between smokers and non-smokers – highlighting worse health and lower socioeconomic status – but none had looked at who the smoking population was, study lead author Jessica Aw said.

“No other study nationally or internationally has sought to comprehensively understand this,” the Australian National University medical student said.

“Results from previous studies have described associations with smoking such as people who smoke are more likely to be living rurally, unemployed, uneducated, in poor mental health which can contribute to stigma.

“We now know the whole population of people who smoke are similar to the whole.”

The findings of the study, involving a nationally representative sample of 16,000 people using Australian Bureau of Statistics data, suggests the majority of smokers don’t “see themselves” in material and campaigns tackling tobacco.

The researchers say health messaging needs to be both broad as well as specific to priority populations such as Indigenous people, while not framing it as an issue particular to one group.

“Smoking remains Australia’s leading cause of premature death and disability, so it’s vital that we better understand who smokes and the reasons why they do,” co-author Professor Emily Banks said.

“These findings should reduce unfair stigma around smoking and support evidence-based tobacco control measures.”

The findings are published in the Medical Journal of Australia.


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