Habit kills 700,000 Aussies in 50 years
MORE than 700,000 Australians have died as a direct result of smoking in the past 50 years, a leading expert says.
One in four Australians continue to smoke despite concrete medical evidence that smoking kills.
Cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of disease in Australia, with about 20,000 people dying every year.
Experts say half those who smoke from the age of 15 will die by the time they reach middle age.
Smokers are 25 times more likely to get lung cancer than non-smokers, 12 times more likely to get chronic lung disease and three times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke.
British scientist Richard Doll showed cigarettes and lung cancer were linked 50 years ago.
Sir Richard has labelled the actions of tobacco companies as "immoral as running a brothel".
In Britain, 6.3 million people have died from smoking in the past 50 years.
Now Australian experts warn our smoking burden will again rise if at-risk groups such as young women continue to light up.
The head of the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland, Alan Lopez, helped come up with the 700,000 figure.
The former chief epidemiologist at the World Health Organisation in Geneva told The Sunday Mail tobacco companies know cigarettes are addictive but continue to target potential smokers.
"There is a motto in the industry that if they can get a smoker to smoke 100 cigarettes then they've got them addicted," Professor Lopez said. "That's only five packets.
"It's absolutely extraordinary that people continue to smoke knowing the risks.
"And these figures don't take into account figures for passive smoking or smoking-related accidents."
Smoking reached epidemic proportions in Australia in 1980-85, when one in three middle-aged men died from tobacco use.
"Young women are one of the groups who continue to ignore the evidence," Professor Lopez said.
"When they start smoking they think middle age around 55 years old is aeons away. Then they realise their kids may not even be finished high school but often it's too late."