Australia - precise tobacco-attributed mortality data on death form..

August 3, 2009 - It is estimated up to 19,000 Australians die from smoking-related illness every year. (population of Australia: 21,262,641 (July 2009 - CIA World Factbook))

It's a shocking figure that would be more potent if it was not an estimate, Professor Freddy Sitas from Cancer Council New South Wales (NSW). He is calling for the official notification form completed after a person dies in Australia to include questions about smoking.

'Including questions on the smoking status of the deceased on death notification forms would allow more detailed estimates to be made of tobacco-attributed mortality in Australia,' Prof Sitas says.

'Our current estimates of tobacco killing 15,000 to 19,000 people in Australia per annum are becoming too blunt and imprecise.'

Prof Sitas said the move would provide a 'clearer picture' of how tobacco addiction contributed to deaths from vascular disease, cancer, kidney disease, tuberculosis and ulcers.

Death notification forms are filled out by doctors and funeral directors in consultation with next of kin. Prof Sitas proposes asking whether a deceased person 'ever' smoked and, if yes, the age at which they stopped.

He says recording the smoking status of the next of kin would also be valuable. 'It would provide invaluable, contemporary and precise information to help monitor the current state of the tobacco epidemic and its evolution over time,' Prof Sitas said.

'It would also provide direct local evidence on the benefits of quitting smoking.'

Answering any of these questions would be voluntary, Prof Sitas said, and the changes would require the support of the state and federal Attorneys-General.

PAPER: Smoking questions on the Australian death notification form: adopting international best practice?; Freddy Sitas, Dianne L O’Connell, Konrad Jamrozik and Alan D Lopez, Medical Journal of Australia 191 (3): 166-168, 2009; Full text..

Reference: Call to add smoking status to death form,, 8/2/2009.