Less use and harm from tobacco, alcohol and other drugs

Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Australia. Smoking tobacco leads to respiratory disease, cancer and heart disease.Less use and harm from Tobacco, Alcohol & Other Drugs highlight

Alcohol and other drug (AOD) use in the community can cause harm to communities, families, and individuals. These harms include injury, chronic conditions, mental health problems, road trauma, violence, and criminal offences.

How big is the problem?

While smoking rates in Tasmania are declining, people living in disadvantaged areas are more than twice as likely to smoke as people from advantaged areas.  Smoking during pregnancy also remains a significant health problem in Tasmania.

Almost half Tasmanian adults drink alcohol at risky levels. Youth, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and homeless people are the most at risk from alcohol use.

Cannabis is the most common drug used.  Tasmania has the second-highest rate of use of all States and Territories.

The use of other illegal drugs, and incorrect use of pharmaceutical drugs remains stable. Illegal and multi-drug use is associated with social disadvantage, social dislocation, child abuse and neglect.

Pharmacists and medical practitioners in Tasmania are recognising an increasing number of people who are misusing opioids, especially codeine. This can lead to hospitalisation and even death. Tasmania has one of the highest rates of opioid prescribing of any state or territory in Australia.

What are the barriers?

There are many psychological, social, economic, and cultural factors that contribute to tobacco, alcohol and other drug use.  People adversely affected by disadvantage and stress tend to use these substances more than the broader community.

Cultural norms and the settings we live in also have an influence. For example, some Australians regard drinking as the cultural norm.   People may not know realise are consuming unsafe amounts of alcohol.

What can we do?

Reducing the harm linked with tobacco, alcohol and drug use requires a range of responses. These should include health promotion, prevention, early intervention, treatment, and recovery focused approaches.

Evidence based mass media campaigns and other communication tools will motivate people to quit smoking and discourage its uptake. Reducing the affordability of smoking through pricing policy leads to less smoking in the population. Co-designed programs, partnerships, and incentives to quit smoking is required in disadvantaged communities where smoking is still prevalent.

Plain packaging has been an effective way to reduce smoking rates, as well as stopping advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of tobacco. Support for tobacco retailers to voluntarily transition away from selling tobacco is needed and stronger regulation is required for novel and emerging products like e-cigarettes.

For alcohol and other drugs, we need effective mass campaigns as part of broader strategies to prevent harm. We need to ensure the availability and promotion of alcohol is restricted to minimise harm, particularly for children and young people, including through digital media. Education for the health workforce is important so they can be confident in identifying, supporting, and referring people to support pathways for those experiencing alcohol and drug related harm.

Other successful ways to address drug use include reducing supply; addressing the social determinants associated with illicit drug use; screening, assessment, and early intervention strategies.

Further links and guidance

Tasmanian Tobacco Control Plan

National Tobacco Strategy 2020-2030 (not yet available - in development)

The National Alcohol Strategy 2019-2028

The National Drug Strategy 2017-2026