On 'World No Tobacco Day' general practitioners are leading the call for teenagers to go smoke free. The theme for this year's event, which falls on Saturday 31 May, is tobacco-free youth.
According to the World Health Organization, most people start smoking before the age of 18, and almost a quarter of these individuals begin using tobacco before the age of ten.
"The younger children are when they first try smoking, the more likely they are to become regular tobacco users and the less likely they are to quit - we have to break the cycle before it begins," said Dr Vasantha Preetham, RACGP President.
The threat to health posed by tobacco smoking is worldwide with the World Health Organization estimating that around five million people die prematurely from tobacco related disease each year.
"While smoking rates have steadily declined in Australia, we have not won the battle yet. Smoking remains the risk factor with the highest levels of disease - such as lung and other cancers, heart disease, stroke, emphysema and other chronic lung diseases - and death.
"The 'quit smoking' message is getting out there, but there are other messages that compete. In the world of movies and pop culture, smoking still has a strong presence and this conflicts with 'quit' messages that are aimed at teenagers.
"We know that spending just a few minutes talking to patients about quitting smoking can lead to behavioural change.
"Doctors can assist patients wanting to quit by helping them to set a quit date, identifying situations and behaviours that encourage the patient to smoke and advising on managing these impulses and providing self help materials."
WHY SMOKING IS FAR FROM COOL
leaves you with smelly hair, stained teeth, bad breath and skin problems
makes your skin become dry, discoloured and you can even get early wrinkles
effects fertility and can lead to impotence in men.
HOW KICKING THE HABIT CAN DELIVER REWARDS
delivers healthier skin
gives you fresh breath and a better sense of taste and smell
means improved fitness and less illness.
"The benefits of quitting smoking are well established. Successfully quitting smoking can result in a boost to your life expectancy by up to ten years. If you want to quit, make the time to see your GP and kick the habit," said Dr Preetham.
Additional information can be found in the RACGP's Smoking Cessation Guidelines for General Practitioners (see www.racgp.org.au/guidelines/smokingcessation
and RACGP SNAP Guide (see www.racgp.org.au/guidelines/snap
To find out more about World No Tobacco Day please visit www.who.int/tobacco/wntd/2008
for The National Tobacco Campaign.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is responsible for maintaining standards for quality clinical practice, education and training, and research in Australian general practice. The RACGP has the largest general practitioner membership of any medical organisation in Australia, with the majority of Australia's general practitioners belonging to their professional college. Over 23,000 general practitioners participate in the RACGP Continuing Professional Development Program. The RACGP National Rural Faculty, representing more than 6000 members, has the largest rural general practitioner membership of any medical organisation in Australia. Visit www.racgp.org.au.