AIHW data shows tobacco use disproportionately affects rural Australians

24 October 2019

The National Rural Health Alliance, the peak body for rural and remote health in Australia, said that new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows that tobacco use is still a serious health risk factor and one that disproportionately affects the health of rural Australians.

Key points:
- The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released a report today quantifying the health burden of tobacco use in Australia, based on the Australian Burden of Disease Study 2015.
- The report shows that people in remote and very remote areas experience 1.8 times the health burden attributable to tobacco use as people in major cities (1.4 times for outer regional areas, and 1.3 times for inner regional areas).
- Smoking rates are higher in rural and remote areas due to social and environmental factors, more limited access to medical care and less successful health promotion campaigns.

Quotes attributable to National Rural Health Alliance CEO, Dr Gabrielle O’Kane:

“The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows that tobacco use continues to disproportionately affect rural and regional Australia.

“Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in Australia and is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, emphysema, asthma, bronchitis, eye disease, renal diseases and cancer.

“Smoking rates continue to be higher in rural and remote Australia due to a range of social, economic and environmental factors. The AIHW data shows that people in remote Australia experience 1.8 times the health burden attributable to tobacco use as people in the cities.

“This is made worse by the other significant health challenges facing people in rural and remote Australia. Separate AIHW data, released this week, shows that preventable hospitalization rates are 2.5 times higher in very remote areas and that there are greater barriers to accessing medical care outside of the cities – not to mention the many social determinants of health such as income and employment opportunities.”

The AIHW report on tobacco, which was released today, is available at https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/burden-of-disease/burden-of-tobacco-use-in-australia/contents/table-of-contents.
The AIHW data on rural and remote health, which was released Tuesday this week, is available at https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/rural-remote-australians/rural-remote-health/contents/summary.