Breaking the link between smoking and disadvantage

Posted 30 May 2017.

We’ve launched a partnership with St Bartholomew’s House ahead of World No Tobacco Day this Wednesday (31 May), calling for the unjust burden of tobacco disease to be shifted from disadvantaged groups.

The partnership announcement comes as the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH) released their annual national scorecard which shows WA is making progress in reducing tobacco smoking rates in many areas.

However, our Make Smoking History Manager, Kelly Kennington, said it is important to remember that while the smoking rate is now 12.7% and on the decline amongst the general population, this is not the case amongst disadvantaged groups.

“There is an unjust burden of disease, death and financial stress among the most vulnerable members in our community due to their high smoking rates which is why it’s an area we are specifically targeting.

“People who live in low socioeconomic areas are three times more likely to be a daily smoker compared to someone in a higher socioeconomic area. In addition, people living in remote and very remote areas are twice as likely to smoke daily which means they have a greater number of chronic health condition and a lower life expectancy” Ms Kennington said.

“We also know smoking rates are even higher among groups that face multiple levels of disadvantage, such as people living with a mental illness, experiencing homelessness or those with problematic alcohol and other drug use.”

The AMA/ACOSH scorecard marked WA up for its renewed focus on implementing programs to reduce smoking among disadvantaged groups, and we’re keen to be at the vanguard of that focus.

“The Cancer Council partnership with St Bartholomew’s House is part of a research project with Curtin University that will evaluate interventions to ensure that clients are regularly offered support to cut down and quit smoking tobacco,” Ms Kennington said.

“The results will help Cancer Council WA implement strategies for existing services accessed by disadvantaged and priority groups including alcohol and drug treatment services, mental health services, homeless and other community based services.

“We believe this is an area that needs to be prioritised because we know quit attempts will be boosted by simply building the capacity of community service staff to talk to their clients about their smoking,” she said.

St Bartholomew’s House CEO John Berger said the partnership reinforces their efforts to ensure everyone has access to the right support to quit smoking.

“A large number of our client group smoke and we can see how this not only affects people’s health, but finances and self-esteem,” Mr Berger said.

“The circumstances that many of our clients face will make it more likely that they are smokers with many doing so from a young age and they face more barriers when trying to quit.

“In turn, high rates of smoking contribute to the stress of meeting daily living costs which can prevent people from securing food, accommodation, education, employment and a stable and fulfilling life, but this does not need to be the case,” he said.

“Research shows the majority of people, regardless of their circumstances, want to quit, and we believe the people we work with should be given the same opportunity.”

ACOSH Executive Director, Dora Oliva, said non-government organisations and the community sector are leading the charge in WA when it comes to addressing smoking in those groups that carry the largest burden caused by tobacco.

“We applaud Cancer Council WA for its work in partnership with the social and community service sector to help their staff and clients to quit,” she said.

Ms Kennington said she is confident the ground breaking work Cancer Council is undertaking in conjunction with the community sector will help drive down smoking rates and reduce inequalities amongst these groups.

“This is an exciting new initiative because community service organisations, such as St Bart’s, have an important role to play in helping to break the cycle and reduce the unjust burden caused by smoking.

“Together we will be doubling our efforts to help reduce smoking rates and contribute towards breaking the cycle of disadvantage,” she said.

Read more on the Make Smoking History for Community Services website.

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