Teenagers' ardent refusal to smoke nearly killed the tobacco industry a decade ago, but experts warn young Australians may be returning to cigarettes.
Smoking has become increasingly less popular since at least the 1990s, with Australia recording one of the lowest smoking rates among OECD nations.
Teenagers in particular were leading the way in reducing smoking rates, but ANU epidemiology and public health professor Emily Banks says some concerning statistics may indicate a change in the wind.
Preliminary data from a survey of high school students may show an increase in the number of 14- to 17-year-olds picking up the habit, though researchers are waiting on final results before coming to a conclusion.
"That's incredibly worrying because they were leading the way," Prof Banks said on Monday.
"There are early warning signs and we're all hoping that they're not going to be borne out by the hard data - but we're still very concerned."
Though tobacco smoking has continued to go down year on year, Prof Banks says the government must make a concerted effort to continue this trend.
"It's very easy to say 'that's it, it's solved', but it certainly isnt," Prof Banks said.
Tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable cancers.
Each day roughly two million Australians light up a cigarette first thing in the morning and about 20,000 die as a result each year.
Within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, smoking kills almost 50 per cent of those aged 45 and over.
The government is attempting to reduce the national smoking rate to five per cent or less by 2030, but Prof Banks says Australia is not on track to meet this target.
These concerning statistics have led health experts such as Prof Banks, Cancer Council CEO Tanya Buchanan and Public Health Association of Australia CEO Terry Slevin to call on the Senate to pass a bill aimed at updating tobacco regulations which were passed more than three decades ago.
Flavours like menthol will be banned, as will additives that make tobacco products more alluring.
Information cards on the benefits of quitting will be included in packaging, cigarette pack sizes will be standardised so tobacco companies cannot sell fewer cigarettes at a lower and more accessible price to teenagers, and advertisements for e-cigarettes and vape products will be banned.
"The big thing about this is that we know that the measures will reduce smoking rates in Australia and so we are reducing the total size of the customer base," Prof Buchanan said.
"Big tobacco are really about selling a deadly product and they're very focused on profits, so they will find all types of ways to subvert and get around intent of good legislation.
"That's why this legislation is so strong because it's also been looking to future proof."
Australian Associated Press