The Australian Medical Association Limited and state AMA entities comply with the Privacy Act 1988. Please refer to the AMA Privacy Policy to understand our commitment to you and information on how we store and protect your data.



04 Nov 2019

Tobacco contributes to one in eight Australian deaths a year and remains the highest risk factor in premature deaths.

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that in 2015, about 21,000 people died from tobacco-related illness – which is more than one in eight.

It also reveals that almost three quarters of the health disease brought on by tobacco proved fatal.

The report, Burden of Tobacco use in Australia, used burden of disease analysis to study the impact of smoking on the population in terms of premature death (the fatal burden) and years lived in ill health (the non-fatal burden).

While Australia has made significant progress in reducing smoking rates, tobacco is responsible for more than nine per cent of the total burden of diseases across the nation.

The daily smoking rate in Australia has almost halved since the early 1990s. Updated records show that in 2016, a total of 12 per cent of Australians smoked daily. That rate is one of the lowest rates among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

The report shows that after accounting for population increase and ageing, the rate of disease burden due to tobacco use fell between 2003 and 2015 by 24 per cent. This pattern is predicted to continue.

But tobacco use remains the leading risk factor for ill health and premature death in Australia and was responsible for 9.3 per cent of the total burden of disease in Australia in 2015.

“Almost three-quarters of the burden due to smoking was fatal. Forty-three per cent of the tobacco-related disease burden was due to cancer and most of this was from lung cancer,” AIHW spokesman Richard Juckes said.

“Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease accounted for 30 per cent of the burden, coronary heart disease 10 per cent and stroke 3.1 per cent.”

Burden of disease from tobacco use was highest in the Northern Territory and in more remote parts of Australia. People living in the lowest socioeconomic areas experienced rates of tobacco burden 2.6 times those of people living in the highest socioeconomic areas.

Together, tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use contributed to 18 per cent of deaths in Australia in 2015, equivalent to about 28,500 fatalities.

“While the burden associated with current smoking fell, the burden linked to past smoking rose by 15 per cent,” Mr Juckes said.

“This is probably because some of the diseases associated with smoking – such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – can take many years to develop.”


The full report can be found at:

Published: 04 Nov 2019