Twenty per cent of Gippslanders smoke, compared with the Victorian average of 13 per cent, prompting a Gippsland doctor to urge smokers to explore ways to kick the habit.
Cancer rates in Gippsland are higher than the rest of Victoria, especially lung cancer.
Lakes Entrance GP, Dr Patrick Kinsella, said the decision to quit smoking was one of the biggest challenges a smoker would face, and for many, the support around them was a significant factor in success.
“If there are others who smoke in the household, this will make it even harder,” Dr Kinsella said.
“So not allowing any smoking inside is a good place to start for someone who wants to quit.
“It takes time for cravings to fade and having other smokers in any house makes it more difficult.”
Dr Kinsella said a recent report revealed it took an average of seven attempts before successfully quitting.
“The odd one does it at the first attempt, but some take many more attempts,” he said.
“So don’t fall back on that old chestnut of ‘I’ve tried lots of times and I just can’t do it’.”
Dr Kinsella, who is also chair of the East Gippsland and Wellington Clinical Council for Gippsland Primary Health Network, said the network had undertaken extensive research as part of its role and used this data and information to inform health planning across the region.
He said comparing health-related data in Gippsland and its six local government areas with Victoria and Australia helped identify what was needed in Gippsland.
“Smoking is a serious and complicated addiction — and quitting is a huge challenge,” Dr Kinsella said.
“Our research shows that people in Gippsland experiencing social and economic disadvantage have a significantly higher risk of alcohol and other drug issues.”
Dr Kinsella said Gippsland people were over-represented in many categories of lung-related health issues compared to the rest of Victoria, including other regional areas.
These included potentially preventable hospitalisations as a result of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (Gippsland 285 per 100,000 people; Victoria 260) and avoidable deaths as a result of respiratory system diseases (Gippsland 10.3 per 100,000 people (Victoria eight).
Dr Kinsella said Gippsland PHN funded initiatives to improve the health and wellbeing of the community in areas where the needs were highest.
“Your GP is a good starting point if you want to quit smoking,” he advised.
“The first step is the hardest, and that first step is really committing yourself to quitting and meaning it.
“There is help available — but you have got to make that commitment if that help is to work.
“Remember also that 10 years after quitting, many of the risk that smoking brings have returned to normal, so it’s never too late.”
Tools available at Quit can help people understand their smoking habits and choose the best way to quit.
Smokers can also speak to their GP or phone the Quitline on 13 78 48 to get personalised, non-judgmental coaching and advice.
For more facts about the health of Gippsland, click here.