More smokers than average

Latrobe Valley continues to host Gippsland’s largest proportion of smokers, despite gradual reductions in smoking rates across the region.

About 19.8 per cent, or one fifth of Latrobe’s 75,000 residents are estimated to still smoke daily, marginally ahead of East Gippsland (19.7 per cent) and Wellington (19.1 per cent).

The figures come up against new data compiled by the National Health Performance Authority, putting Gippsland’s overall smoking rate at about 15 per cent, or an estimated total 30,000 daily smokers.

Latrobe Community Health Service chief executive Ben Leigh said despite new research showing rates in Gippsland as a whole had reduced, Latrobe’s smoking rate was about 30 per cent above that average.

“While Latrobe smoking figures are still high, the good news is that they have come down in recent years and no doubt this can be attributed in part to the stricter laws on smoking and the sale of tobacco products,” Mr Leigh said.

Mr Leigh pointed to recent State Government measures to restrict public smoking, including proposed legislation which, if passed through parliament, will ban smoking in playgrounds, swimming pools, skate parks, and sports venues while underage events are on.

“While adults can decide to smoke, their decision should not affect the health of children and nearby adults, particularly those who are otherwise trying to improve their health through sports and recreation.”