Research shows two out of three smokers will die as a result of their smoking. The Australian National University and Sax Institute have just released findings from studying 200 000 people demonstrating the concerning statistic and that,  compared to non-smokers, those who smoke die 10 years earlier.  Those who consider themselves light smoker of 10 cigarettes a day double their risk of dying prematurely and a pack a day increases that risk five-fold.

The main conditions causing early death in smokers are cardiovascular disease, cancers and chronic lung disease.

It is estimated that 70% of Australians smoked regularly in the 1940's, the number has reduced to 13% today, which equates to 2.7 million people in our current population, with the large study demonstrating an alarming rate of smoking associated premature death for two out of three of this number. ( 1.62 million)

The study also demonstrated that regular smokers who were able to quit before the age of 45yrs were able to significantly reduced their risks. Research has also demonstrated that quitting at any stage is associated with benefits that are rapid and substantial.

Research has repeatedly shown that most smokers want to quit smoking and approximately 40% try to do so at least once per year. Nicotine dependence is a powerful substance use disorder and it is estimated that only 3-5% of unaided quit attempts are successful 6-12 months later.

The most effective method to quit is with a combination of professional counselling to address the habit aspects of smoking and pharmacotherapy to address the nicotine dependence. The choice for each person is based on past experience, side effects, efficacy, contraindications, drug interactions, person preference and cost.

There are two forms of nicotine replacement therapy ( NRT) available,

1. long acting forms: the patch provides a steady background level of nicotine throughout the day ( patches are subsidised by the PBS)

2. quick acting oral forms : nicotine gum, inhalator and mouth spray deliver intermittent doses to relieve immediate cravings

There is a great deal of misinformation about the safety, addictiveness, correct use, effectiveness and safety of therapeutic nicotine with it often being avoided or used in a less effective way than possible.

Nicotine is not the major toxic ingredient in tobacco, and NRT has a strong safety record. Nicotine does not cause cancer or respiratory disease and has only a minor role in worsening cardiovascular disease. Using NRT is always safer than smoking cigarettes. All forms of NRT deliver nicotine to the person more slowly than cigarettes, and has low or no abuse potential

Varenicline ( PBS subsidised) aka Champix

An oral medication, advised to take over a full twelve week course. About 30% of those taking it will develop nausea initially ( reduced by taking after food, grading the dose  and settling after a few days) it can also cause low grade headache, dreams, insomnia and drowsiness. There have been reports of associated depressive thoughts, agitation and  suicidal thoughts especially on commencing the medication. It is advised that those commencing the medication monitor mood and behaviour changes. ( There is no scientific evidence linking the altered moods and the medication currently)

Buprion ( PBS subsidised) aka Zyban

Also an effective aid to quitting and usually well tolerated and requiring an 8 week course. There is a 1:1000 risk of seizures to be aware of, particularly for those with a past history of seizures.


These are battery operated devices that deliver nicotine vapour and mimic the feel of conventional cigarettes. A small number of studies have shown benefit in aiding quitting, but there is not enough evidence  to advise use as an effective quitting aid. There are no long term studies regarding effectiveness or safety and small amounts of toxic compounds have been found in the vapour of some brands ( less than cigarette smoke) E cigarettes are not regulated, and there have been issues of quality control and concern that they may be used as a gateway to smoking and normalise smoking by giving the appearance that smoking behaviour is acceptable. They may benefit those for whom handling cigarettes is an important part of their smoking ritual.

useful websites: Quitnow  or phone 13 7848

and ( to find an accredited tobacco treatment specialist in your area, and more information regarding quitting)


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