General public

Thinking of quitting?

Going cold turkey works for some but most people should talk with a health professional who can guide them on what works best when it comes to quitting.

In fact, only 3-5 per cent of unaided quit attempts succeed.

But with counselling and support from health care professionals and the use of stop-smoking medication, your chance of success is increased to 25-30 per cent.

Want to know more?

  • Smoking in Australia
  • Health Effects of Smoking
  • Benefits of Smoking Cessation
  • Getting Help to Quit Smoking to Improve Your Chances of Success
  • References
Smoking and lung health - General public (258 KB)

Smoking in Australia

Tobacco smoking remains the single most preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia.  It contributes to more deaths and hospitalisations than alcohol and illicit drug use combined.1

Smoking rates in the population, 14 years and over have declined to 15.1%.  Smoking is higher in people of the lowest socioeconomic status (24.6%) compared to the highest socioeconomic status (12.5%).2

Males are more likely to be daily smokers than females. 2

Almost 1 in 5 people aged 20-39 years smoke daily. 2

Indigenous Australians are more than two times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to smoke tobacco.2

It is well documented that second hand smoke is known to cause various health problems in children and adults.  Exposure has declined in the last decade, reflecting the decline in smoking rates and an increase in smokers confining their smoking to outside the home.1

Health Effects of Smoking

Tobacco smoke contains many toxic chemicals and at least 69 cause cancer.3

In Australia smoking is the major cause of COPD and lung cancer.  Around 40% of smoking related deaths are due to lung cancer and 27% to COPD.4 Smoking also contributes to worsening of asthma and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Tobacco smoking kills more than 15 000 Australians each year, more than breast cancer, AIDS, traffic and other accidents, murders and suicides combined. 5

About 50% of all persistent cigarette smokers are killed by their habit – 25% while still in middle age (35-69 years). On average, cigarette smokers die about 10 years younger than non-smokers.  Stopping smoking at age 50 halves the hazard; stopping at 30 avoids most of it.6


Benefits of Smoking Cessation

There are immediate health benefits to quitting smoking at any age.  There are even health benefits to quitting if a person has already been diagnosed with a smoking related disease.  Stopping smoking decreases the risk of lung and other cancers, heart attack, stroke and chronic disease compared with continued smoking. 7

If a person with COPD is still smoking, the most important thing that they can do to slow the rate of deterioration of their lung function, is to quit.   The graph below compares the rate of lung function decline for a smoker with chronic airflow obstruction (i.e. emphysema) compared to a never smoker.  It also highlights what happens for a person with chronic airflow obstruction who stops smoking at 45 and if they stop smoking at 65 years of age.  It shows that that there are health benefits to stopping smoking at any age.


Getting Help to Quit Smoking to Improve Your Chances of Success

Going cold turkey works for some people, but you might like to consider talking with a health professional who can guide you on what works best when it comes to quitting.  Research has shown that the most effective way to quit is to get some ongoing support from a health professional, using a combination of counselling and medicine. 8

Talk to a health professional such as a doctor, nurse or pharmacist about making a plan to quit smoking.

Call the Quitline 13 78 48 or visit quitting methods for more information.

For many people when the initial feeling of achievement wears off, it can start to get harder to resist the temptation to resume smoking.  Speak to your health professional for assistance and support so you can stay focussed.  Visit coping strategies for some useful information on coping with withdrawal symptoms.


There is no evidence supporting e-cigarettes as a safer or more effective method than existing, proven, registered, therapeutic quit-smoking methods and medicines. Lung Foundation Australia continues to recommend a smoking cessation strategy which includes clinical counselling together with nicotine replacement therapy or other evidence-based forms of pharmacotherapy. Click here to read the full Lung Foundation Australia position paper on e-cigarettes.

Smoking Cannabis Fact Sheet

Smoking Cannabis Fact Sheet (388 KB)

Love Your Lungs, Be Smoke Free Videos

Lung Foundation Australia has partnered with the Indigenous Respiratory Outreach Care (IROC) Program to produce five short lung health videos. These can be used to start the conversation about lung health and symptoms of lung disease.

1. Cowboy
2. Interview
3. Treadmill
4. Birthday cake
5. Three little pigs

Click here to view the playlist.

Other Useful links



  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2012.  Australia’s health 2012.  Australian’s health series no. 13. Cat. No. AUS 156. Canberra: AIHW
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey Report. Drug statistics series no. 25 Cat. No. PHE 145. Canberra: AIHW, 2011. ISSN 1442-7230/ISBN 978-1-74249-188-2.
  3. Tobacco Smoking is Harmful to Health. (Online) March 31, 2011.  (Cited: April 5, 2011.)
  4. Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH.  Tobacco in Australia: Facts and Issue. 3rd Edition. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria, 2008. Available from
  5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia’s Health 2006. Canberra: AIHW, 2006, cat no. AUS 73.
  6. Doll, R, et al.  Mortality in relation to smoking: 50 years’ observations on male British doctors.  BMJ (Clinical research ed). 2004, Vol. 328, p. 1519.
  7. US Department of Health and Human Services.  The health benefits of smoking cessation.  A report of the Surgeon General.  DHHS Publication No CDC 90-8416.  Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centres for Disease Control, Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 1990. Available from:
  8. GOLD. Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Available from: