Four times as many people trying to quit smoking during COVID-19

Today, on World No Tobacco Day, I encourage all smokers to call the Quitline and download the My Quitbuddy app to help them quit.

Smokers who do so will be in good company – between January and May this year, the My Quitbuddy app was downloaded more than 24,000 times, a staggering 310 per cent increase over the same time last year.

These figures are very encouraging and I congratulate those who have taken the first step. Quitting is not always easy, but assistance is available and the benefits are significant.

There is growing evidence that smokers are more likely to develop a severe case of COVID-19 if they contract the virus. However, there is currently insufficient evidence to conclude whether smoking – either cigarettes or e-cigarettes – increases a person’s susceptibility to contracting the coronavirus.

Tobacco use is a major cause of cardiovascular disease, at least 16 types of cancer, respiratory disease and type 2 diabetes, and COVID-19 patients with these health conditions can suffer worse outcomes.

Irrespective of the relationship between smoking and COVID-19, quitting smoking at any age is beneficial to a person’s health. There is no safe level of tobacco consumption.

Quitting smoking also has the potential to reduce the demands on Australia’s health system – now and into the future.

We have had significant success in reducing smoking in Australia. Smoking rates have declined significantly over the past two decades, from 22.3 per cent in 2001 to 13.8 per cent in 2017.

The Australian Government aims to reduce smoking rates further, to less than 10 per cent by 2025 through the 10-year National Preventive Health Strategy and has committed $31.6 million over four years from 2019-20 to reduce smoking prevalence.

This includes $20 million over three years to develop a new National Tobacco Campaign to encourage smokers to quit.

The campaign will increase people’s understanding of the benefits of quitting smoking, the health impacts of smoking and promote the support tools available to help people quit.

The Government will continue to work hard to help Australians quit and stop them from ever starting.

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