No Tobacco Day is a global initiative intended to encourage abstinence from cigarettes and other tobacco products, and to highlight the preventable diseases and deaths tobacco causes. Although drawing attention to the tobacco epidemic for one day is commendable, if you’re a smoker, why not make May the 31st the day you commit to quitting?
I think the real importance of World No Tobacco Day is to ensure that we remind smokers that it’s a good chance to quit, it’s an opportunity to try and quit again, and it’s also serves as a reminder that the tobacco industry is operating and selling a product that addicts young people, and kills two out of three of their best customers.
So what’s the best way to quit smoking? Well, if you look at sort of the research, we know that people who use things like quit-smoking medications or nicotine replacement therapy, their success rate does increase. But what that doesn’t consider is the fact that the most important part of quitting smoking is to actually try. And if we look at across the whole population of people who are most likely to have quit smoking, it’s those that made enough attempts, who gave it one final go, who said, “you know what, “enough is enough. I no longer want to be a smoker.” So there are plenty of resources out there to help smokers to quit smoking, but there are three key ones I would really recommend.
Number one: talk to your family doctor.
Number two: I would call the Quitline. This is a free number available widely across Australia.
And number three: I would say to visit the “I Can Quit” website. It’s online resource, it’s free, and there’s a whole community of people who have already quit smoking who can give you advice and tips and support.
I think some people are quite critical of using cold turkey as a method to quit smoking, but in actual facts, that’s how most smokers do quit. It’s that they do it on their own, using their sort of own ways of quitting smoking, their own motivations, and it’s really interesting to think about what it is that’s triggering you to make a quit attempt. Is it a major life event? Are you perhaps going to get married? Are you turning 40? Maybe you’re planning to have a baby? All these sort of things can serve as real motivation to quit.
Quitting can be tough, but it can be made easier if the people around you quit as well, or at least respect the fact that you’re giving up cigarettes. Getting support from a quitline can also help. And then there are the things that governments and communities can do. Australia has had great success in reducing smoking across the population. If you think back to the 1990s, when smoking rates were over 30%, we’re now at about 12% of adults smoking on a daily basis.
But that success hasn’t been felt across all groups. Mental health consumers, young adults, indigenous population, their smoking rates in those groups are still incredibly high. We know from previous experience in Australia that we have seen our smoking rates plummet because of things like tax increases on tobacco products, smoking bans in public places, bans on the advertising of tobacco products, and of course, smoking support aids and quit smoking campaigns.
Now a lot of people will say, “Oh, I’ve seen those ads “on TV, the lungs and the hearts. “I just turn those off. I ignore them.” But when those ads are on air, we see smoking rates go down, and we see quit attempts increase. They serve as really salient reminders, to smokers in particular, that smoking is not consequence-free. But we’ve done nothing to address how tobacco is sold, so the supply side issues. We haven’t addressed how much you can buy at one time, how much a retailer can sell, the hours they can sell it. And you think about alcohol policy, we’re quite clear on where alcohol can be sold and by who. We haven’t done those same kinds of policy approaches in tobacco control. And in some rural and remote communities, tobacco is actually more available than fresh fruit and vegetables. and this is appalling. For a product that kills two out of three people who use it, why is it able to be purchased so easily? When you look at who’s resisting tobacco control policy reform in Australia, it’s the global tobacco industry. They’re made up of less than a handful of multinational companies that ensure that any public health success we gain has to be fought for for tooth and nail, because they don’t want to see these policies rolled out to other countries and to see global smoking rates start to plummet.
Celebrate No Tobacco Day on May the 31st by quitting smoking. And if you don’t smoke, support someone, say a friend or family member, who is trying, because stopping smoking isn’t easy. Let’s consider that World No Tobacco Day, if you’re a smoker, is a chance to make that last final quitting attempt. That this is gonna be your chance to be smoke-free, tobacco-free for the rest of your lives. If you’re a non-smoker, it’s your chance to support the smokers in your life. And if you’re a legislator, it’s your chance to put policies in place that protect everyone from the harms of the tobacco industry.
Dr Norman Swan
For more information about quitting smoking and tips to help you quit, visit our quit smoking page.