Progress welcomed, persistence needed: Tobacco control has prevented four lung cancer deaths a week since 1982 in WA | AMA (WA)


Public Health AMA WA

Progress welcomed, persistence needed: Tobacco control has prevented four lung cancer deaths a week since 1982 in WA

Wednesday September 8, 2021

Lorena Chapman

Over the last four decades, Australia has implemented numerous tobacco control initiatives, including tobacco excises, bans on tobacco advertising, smoke-free legislation, plain packaging, point-of-sale legislation, and state and national public education campaigns.

While these initiatives have been relentlessly opposed by tobacco companies and their front-groups, new research conducted by The Daffodil Centre at the University of Sydney has shown that because of these tough measures, more than 7,200 Western Australians have been spared a tobacco-caused lung cancer death (four deaths a week) since 1982.

Looking to the future, due to the lag time between tobacco exposure and lung cancer deaths, it is estimated that without tobacco control, more than 76,000 Western Australians would die from lung cancer between 2017 and 2050. Thanks to tobacco control, more than 42,000 (56 per cent) of these deaths will be averted.

However, despite the successful tobacco control initiatives that are currently in place, the remaining 44 per cent of lung cancer deaths will not be averted, equivalent to nearly 34,000 Western Australian lives lost. This means that continued commitment to tobacco control needs to remain a significant public health priority.

Policy-makers cannot continue being complacent while tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease. Cancer Council WA has called on State and Federal governments to commit to saving thousands of lives by making tobacco control a priority.

Doctors also have an important role to play by supporting their patients to stop using tobacco. Tobacco use is the most common cause of cancer and is responsible for one in five cancer deaths. A person’s risk of developing 16 different types of cancer is increased through using tobacco.

It is important that doctors provide best-practice smoking cessation care as part of their everyday interactions with patients:

  • Ask all patients about their smoking status and document this in their medical record.
  • Advise all patients who smoke to quit in a clear, non-confrontational and personalised way, focusing on the benefits of quitting and advising of the best way to quit.
  • Help by offering referral to behavioural intervention through Quitline (13 78 48) and prescribe pharmacotherapy, such as combination nicotine replacement therapy.

Free online brief advice training is available for health professionals, including RACGP-accredited modules for general practitioners. For more information about the training and other support, please visit or email

lorena ChapmamLorena Chapman

A/Senior Policy and Research Coordinator at Cancer Council WA.