Tobacco war saves 100,000
Tobacco war 'saves 100,000'

One in 25 West Australians is believed to be alive today because of anti-tobacco efforts since a landmark report warned 50 years ago that smoking caused lung cancer.

New figures obtained by The Weekend West estimate that about 100,000 people are alive in WA now because smoking rates plummeted from 43 per cent of adults in 1964 - the year the US surgeon-general first warned categorically of the hazards - to 12 per cent by 2012.

Male smokers have stubbed out in even bigger numbers - down from 58 per cent in 1964.

The estimates were compiled by leading University of WA population health epidemiologist D'Arcy Holman and Australian Council on Smoking and Health president Mike Daube.

Separate figures from the Cancer Council WA show smoking-related deaths have also nosedived in men, with the risk of dying of lung cancer falling from one in 19 men in the 1960s to one in 28 in 2011.

While the risk is lower in women - one in 42 - lung cancer remains their biggest cancer killer, well above deaths from breast cancer. Professor Daube said the decline in smoking over the past 50 years had been an extraordinary triumph for public health and caused a massive cultural change.

"When you stand back and look at those numbers, they are quite remarkable and it is hard to think of anything else we have done over recent decades that has done so much to keep people alive and healthy," he said.

There had also been a huge loss of life since the landmark report was released, with an estimated 800,000 Australians dying from smoking, and there was growing evidence about the wider harms of smoking and passive smoking.

Cancer Council WA director of education and research Terry Slevin said thousands of cases of cancer had been prevented in WA because of anti-smoking measures, many of which people said could not be done, such as banning smoking on long-haul flights.

"We know that if tobacco was coming on to the market now, there is no way it could be legally sold," he said.

The West Australian

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