One simple thing that will help keep you out of the health system: don't smoke.

Image: ABC.

Russian-born actor Yul Brynner (Yuliy Borisovich Briner) died 30 years ago from lung cancer in his 60s. Before he died he made a number of TV commercials, in which he appeared full face to camera croaking “whatever you do, don’t smoke”.

That’s the one thing above all else I would suggest to preserve your health — don’t smoke.

 It’s not just lung cancer of course — which is 15 times more likely if you smoke. Heart disease death risk doubles.

And because heart disease is so much more common than lung cancer, the number of heart disease deaths due to smoking is actually about the same as the number of lung cancer deaths due to smoking.

About one in five Australians still smoke. Among Indigenous people with their already shocking rates of diabetes and heart disease, where smoking really makes things much worse, the smoking rate is around 40 per cent, though showing a slow decline.

The more remote the location, the higher the rates (50 per cent).

Tobacco is a global scourge. The World Health Organisation says that:

  • Tobacco kills up to half of its users
  • Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year — more than 5 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke
  • Unless urgent action is taken, the annual death toll could rise to more than 8 million by 2030
  • Nearly 80 per cent of the world’s 1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries
  • Consumption of tobacco products is increasing globally, though it is decreasing in some high-income and upper middle-income countries

One thing. Don’t smoke.

Stephen Leeder is Emeritus Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine at the Menzies Centre for Health Policy and the School of Public Health, University of Sydney; chair of the Western Sydney Local Health District Board.

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This post originally appeared on ABC News.