Why reducing tobacco-related harm is important for health and wellbeing

Tobacco use is the leading contributor to disease and death burden. Smoking increases the risk of many illnesses including lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and evidence suggests that smoking kills almost two in three regular users. The health burden of tobacco use affects not only smokers but also their families, particularly children who are more likely to suffer from bronchiolitis and other respiratory conditions. Smoking also causes significant economic impacts through costs of health care and loss of life. The smoking rate is not evenly distributed throughout the population, with Aboriginal Australians and socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals more likely to smoke.

Strategic actions

  • Reduce smoking-related harm and denormalise smoking behaviours through ongoing support and modernisation of tobacco control regulation in Victoria.
  • Support smokers to quit through greater access to and uptake of smoking cessation.
  • Embed smoking identification and cessation pathways into routine care.

What we want to achieve

  • decrease access and affordability of tobacco products
  • decrease the number of environments in which to smoke
  • decrease exposure to second- and third-hand smoke
  • decrease social acceptability of smoking
  • increase capacity to stop smoking and use of nicotine
  • increase uptake of stop-smoking supports.

This page includes links to evidence-based guidance to assist partners in the implementation of actions to reduce tobacco-related harm across a range of settings.

  • Actions in early childhood settings and schools

    By using a whole-of-organisation approach that includes staff, students, families and the wider community, early childhood services and schools are ideally placed to improve health behaviours which can help prevent chronic disease, support better learning outcomes and set children and adults up with healthy habits for life. Early childhood services and schools are also workplaces (refer to guidance for workplaces) and have a valuable opportunity to positively influence healthy behaviour of the people who spend time there.

    The Achievement Program provides guidance and support for education settings to become healthier places for their community. The program is a free initiative that identifies evidence-based actions to create healthier places, provides links to best-practice resources and case studies, and provides Victorian government recognition once applicable standards have been met.

    Evidence-based actions that an early childhood service or school can take to reduce tobacco-related harm and become a healthier place include:

    Educate Victorian children and young people about the harm associated with tobacco use

    Smoking can lead to addiction and is linked to serious health issues such as heart disease, cancer and stroke. The childhood and teenage years, particularly for at-risk groups, is the perfect time to build awareness around the risks of smoking and prevent young people from taking up smoking as a habit that could have health impacts into adulthood. Smoking prevention is most effective when a whole school approach is taken and might include:

    • displaying smoke-free signage at all entry points to your early childhood service or school and inform any staff, families and visitors of the smoke-free policy upon arrival
    • communicating the negative health effects of smoking for all students
    • supporting students to develop interpersonal skills to prevent smoking, including assertiveness, communication and a sense of safety
    • educating parents and staff about how peer behaviour influences children's decision making and avoid modelling of smoking behaviour within the school, including in school plays
    • allocating time for staff to undertake training regarding tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
    Reduce exposure of Victorian children and young people to tobacco smoke, including exposure to second- and third-hand tobacco smoke

    Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of environmental tobacco smoke and are at a higher risk of developing a range of respiratory illnesses. Reducing exposure to second- and third-hand smoke ensures that children and young people can enter and leave their learning environments without being exposed to harmful second- and third-hand smoke and also reduces the role modelling of smoking behaviours around children and young people, helping to 'denormalise' smoking behaviour and discourage them from taking up smoking. Steps an early childhood service or school can take to create healthy environments for learning include:

    • ensuring staff members who are smokers undertake appropriate handwashing and oral hygiene measures to remove any traces of smoke so that children are not exposed to second- and third-hand tobacco smoke
    • informing staff, educators and families that they are peer models for the children and therefore should not smoke in front of them
    • implementing a policy and process regarding external organisations who use the premises, to have a formal contract and code of conduct that requires agreement that the premises are smoke-free at all times.
    Smokers have access to resources and support to learn about smoking and to quit smoking

    Most smokers want to quit smoking with eight in ten smokers in Victoria indicating they want to quit. Evidence shows that people who have the best chance of quitting are individuals who get support and use pharmacotherapy. Supporting smokers who want to quit by providing a good support network and referring them to appropriate agencies will encourage them to follow through with planned quitting strategies and stay smoke-free. Early childhood services and schools can help by:

    • supporting smokers to quit through access to information about smoking cessation and referral to appropriate agencies to seek advice, support, information and treatment referral
    • providing staff with tobacco information and policy requirements during staff induction and orientation
    • ensuring resources about health risks related to smoking are readily available to staff, families and community members.

    Resources on this topic include:

  • Actions in local government

    Local government is ideally placed to develop, lead and implement local policies to influence many determinants of health, and is also a major employer in many communities (refer to guidance for workplaces).

    Under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008, local councils are required to protect, improve and promote public health and wellbeing within their municipality and prepare a municipal public health and wellbeing plan (MPHWP) every four years. They also have specific roles in enforcing tobacco controls and smoking regulations.

    Education and enforcement in accordance with the Tobacco Act 1987

    Local councils have the power to enforce the Tobacco Act 1987, the legislation governing where Victorians can smoke, as well as the sales and promotion of tobacco products and certain non-tobacco products. Through local knowledge and regular interactions with the community, local councils can enhance awareness and compliance with tobacco control laws, which can contribute to the decline of smoking rates and to a growing understanding of the harm associated with smoking, and second- and third-hand smoke.

    Evidence-based actions that a local government can take to reduce tobacco-related harm and become a healthier place include:

    • educating businesses and the community about their obligations under the Tobacco Act 1987
    • monitoring compliance and taking enforcement action where necessary
    • respond to complaints in relation to the Tobacco Act 1987
    • participate in the Cigarette Sales to Minors Program and conduct test purchases with young people to ensure compliance with the Tobacco Act 1987
    • conduct public hospital visits and educate smokers about smoking bans.
    Extend smoke-free areas and contribute to denormalisation of smoking

    Local councils can influence the quality and distribution of smoke-free environments across the municipality and reduce community harm from tobacco. Exposure to second-hand smoke is known to increase the risk of numerous health problems, particularly among young children. Reducing exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke by implementing smoke-free areas provides the community with protection from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. This also reduces the role modelling of smoking behaviours around children and young people helping to 'denormalise' smoking behaviour and discourage them from taking up smoking.  In addition to the requirements under the Tobacco Act 1987, local councils can encourage other smoke-free areas by:

    • displaying smoke-free signage at all entry points to council buildings and inform any staff and visitors of the smoke-free policy upon arrival
    • ensure businesses and other organisations are displaying smoke-free signage in accordance with the Tobacco Act 1987
    • expanding smoke-free areas within the municipality, beyond existing state-based smoke-free areas, to provide protection from second-hand smoke, and contribute to reduced exposure and the denormalisation of smoking; this may include extending smoke-free public areas in sporting grounds at all times, including over-age outdoor community sporting events, and open shopping malls and shopping strips
    • implementing a policy and process regarding council-organised or funded events requiring agreements that the premises are smoke-free at all times
    • incorporating tobacco-free living as a priority in council's Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan and other local strategies by proposing strategies that align with the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2019-2023.
    Smokers have access to resources and support to learn about smoking and to quit smoking

    Local councils have a key role in using the workplace setting to support smoking cessation. Most smokers want to quit smoking with eight in ten smokers in Victoria indicating they want to quit. Evidence shows that people who have the best chance of quitting are individuals who get support and use pharmacotherapy. Supporting smokers who want to quit by providing a good support network and referring them to appropriate agencies will encourage them to follow through with planned quitting strategies and stay smoke-free. Actions that local councils can take include:

    • introducing and supporting workplace health promotion programs that address smoking and encourage smokers to quit
    • introducing and actively participating in the Achievement Program in all council-owned and funded services, including implementing organisational and environmental changes to achieve the smoking benchmarks in accordance with the program
    • offering support to other workplaces and education settings within your municipality to participate in the Achievement Program and encourage these organisations to achieve the smoking benchmarks
    • ensuring resources about health risks related to smoking are readily available to staff, families and community members.

    Resources on this topic include:

  • Actions in health and human services

    Health and human services are key players in the Victorian prevention system. The healthcare system encompasses many skilled professionals who are uniquely positioned to encourage and support Victorians to adopt healthy behaviours. Health and human services are also major employers in many communities (refer to guidance for workplaces).

    Smokers have access to resources and support to learn about smoking and to quit smoking

    Most smokers want to quit smoking with eight in ten smokers in Victoria indicating they want to quit. Health and human services have a role in prevention and are also well placed due to their scale, expertise and contact with priority population groups. People accessing these services are likely to demonstrate higher rates of smoking than the general population. Interventions within health and human services have been shown to promote smoking cessation. For many smokers, a brief intervention by their health professional combined with pharmacotherapy and behavioural intervention will aid them towards the best chance of quitting and changing their smoking behaviour.

    Evidence-based actions that a health or human service can take to reduce tobacco-related harm and become a healthier place include:

    • displaying smoke-free signage in accordance with the Tobacco Act 1987 at all entry points to the organisation and inform any staff, families and visitors of the smoke-free policy upon arrival
    • overseeing the implementation and review of the smoke-free policy within the workplace that outlines the organisation's commitment and ways to support staff to quit smoking, and complies with the Achievement Program
    • integrating a systematic approach to embedding smoking identification and support, including incorporating clinical guidelines into clinical assessments and treatment processes to ensure clients are offered a brief intervention and their smoking status is recorded
    • participating in the Victorian Network of Smokefree Healthcare Services and working collaboratively with other health and human services to form networks, share knowledge, resources and measurement systems
    • developing prevention targets and accountability mechanisms to support the implementation of reducing tobacco-related harm and encourage smokers to quit
    • introducing smoke-free policies by implementing and/or extending existing smoke-free areas within the service, beyond state-based smoke-free areas, to protect the community from exposure to second-hand smoke and help those trying to quit.

    Resources on this topic include:

  • Actions in workplaces

    Workplaces offer unique opportunities to promote health and wellbeing and create healthy working environments for staff in the places they spend the most of their time. Creating a healthy workplace can be complex but there are areas where a few vital behaviour changes can have a major impact and will help staff participate, be well, be more productive and contribute to the community. Healthy workplaces help staff make healthier choices and improves the overall culture of an organisation.

    The Healthy Workplaces Achievement Program provides guidance and support for workplaces to become healthier places for their employees. It is a voluntary, free initiative that identifies evidence-based actions to create a healthy place, links members to best-practice resources and examples, supported by local experts to support work places on their journey and provides Victorian Government recognition once these standards have been met.

    Evidence-based actions that a workplace can take to reduce smoking rates among staff, promote a smoke-free workplace and become a healthier place include:

    Educate employees about the harm associated with tobacco use and reduce exposure to tobacco smoke and creating a workplace culture that is supportive of being smoke-free

    Reducing smoking rates among staff and promoting a smoke-free workplace helps protect the entire workforce from the harms of tobacco smoke and create a healthy workplace environment. A workplace can support a smoke-free environment by implementing clear policies and providing education and resources to help assist smoking cessation.

    • displaying smoke-free signage in accordance with the Tobacco Act 1987 at all entry points to the organisation and inform any staff, families and visitors of the smoke-free policy upon arrival
    • overseeing the implementation and review of the smoke-free policy within the workplace that outlines the organisation's commitment and ways to support staff to quit smoking and complies with the Achievement Program
    • ensuring all social and business events are smoke-free and promoting smoke-free messages through forums, meetings and signage
    • prohibiting provision and supply of any materials that facilitate smoking such as lighters, or ashtrays in smoke-free areas
    • introducing policies to prevent smoking within enclosed workspaces not covered under the Tobacco Act 1987, such as company vehicles and residential care facilities
    • ensuring that an individual's choice to smoke or not smoke outside of work requirements is respected and not stigmatised
    • engaging with the wider community to support smoke-free initiatives.
    Smokers have access to resources and support to learn about smoking and to quit smoking

    Most smokers want to quit smoking with eight in ten smokers in Victoria indicating they want to quit. Evidence shows that people who have the best chance of quitting are individuals who get support and use pharmacotherapy. Supporting smokers who want to quit smoking by providing a good support network will encourage them to follow through with planned quitting strategies and stay smoke-free. Strategies to encourage and support employees and visitors to make healthy choices relating to smoking might include:

    • supporting smokers to quit through access to information about smoking cessation and referral to appropriate agencies to seek advice, support, information and treatment referral
    • providing staff with tobacco information and policy requirements during staff induction and orientation
    • ensuring resources about health risks related to smoking are readily available to staff to increase knowledge and skills about quitting smoking and being a smoke-free environment.

    Resources on this topic include: