1.3 Prevalence of smoking—adults

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1.3.1 Latest estimates of smoking prevalence

Recent data on prevalence of smoking in Australia can be found in the latest report of the National Drug Strategy Household Survey published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare1 and the National Health Survey, published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.2

National Drug Strategy Household Survey

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey most commonly refers to daily smoking rates among those 14 years and over. However the very detailed 323-page report also includes figures for those 18 years and over who smoke daily, at least weekly and less than weekly.

In shorthand speech, the 'prevalence of smoking among adults in Australia' could be cited simply as 17.5%.

National Health Survey

The Australian Bureau of Statistics' National Health Survey also provides data on smoking prevalence.2 The prevalence of daily smoking for Australians 18 plus in the 2007–08 survey was 18% among people 15 plus, and 18.9% among people 15 plus. This compares to 16.6% for Australians 14 plus in the 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.3 i,ii

Table 1.3.1
Prevalence of daily, regular and current smokers* 2010—Australians 14+ and 18+

14+

18+

Males

Daily

16.4

17.4

Weekly

1.9

1.9

Total regular smokers (daily plus weekly)

18.3

19.3

Less than weekly

1.6

1.7

Total current smokers (daily, weekly, less than weekly)

20

21

Ex-smokers†

26.4

28.2

Never smokers‡

53.7

50.8

Females

Daily

13.9

14.5

Weekly

1.2

1.2

Total regular smokers (daily plus weekly)

15.1

15.7

Less than weekly

1.2

1.2

Total current smokers (daily, weekly, less than weekly)

16.3

16.9

Ex-smokers†

21.8

23.1

Never smokers‡

31.8

59.9

Persons (males and females)

Daily

15.1

15.9

Weekly

1.5

1.6

Total regular smokers (daily plus weekly)

16.6

17.5

Less than weekly

1.4

1.5

Total current smokers (daily, weekly, less than weekly)

18

19

Ex-smokers†

24.1

25.6

Never smokers‡

57.8

55.4

* Includes persons smoking any combination of cigarettes (factor-made and roll-your-own), pipes or cigars

Smoked more than 100 cigarettes (manufactured or roll-your own) or the equivalent amount of tobacco in their life but reports no longer smoking.

Never smoked more than 100 cigarettes (manufactured or roll-your own) or the equivalent amount of tobacco.

Source: National Drug Strategy Household Survey 20101, Table 3.3 page 25

1.3.2 Historical trends in smoking prevalence

Measurements of the prevalence of smoking in Australia first became available in 1945. Limited survey data7 are available for the years between then and 1974, when the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria (now Cancer Council Victoria) conducted its first national survey.8,9 These early data show that in around the middle of the last century, a clear majority of males aged 16 and over were smokers, compared to about one-quarter of females (Table 1.3.2). In the following decades smoking among men declined, probably in response to the initial publicity regarding the health effects of smoking, which first emerged in the 1950s and early 1960s.10-13 Women have always had a lower prevalence of smoking than men, but smoking among women continued to increase in the 1970s.

Table 1.3.2
Percentage of current smokers* in Australia, 1945–1976

Year

Male (%)

Female
(%)

1945

72

26

1964

58

28

1969

45

28

1974

45

30

1976

43

33

* Includes persons describing themselves as 'current smokers' smoking any combination of cigarettes, pipes or cigars. Age range for 1945, 1964 and 1969 not specified. Data for 1974 and 1976 are for people aged 16 and over

Sources: Woodward,7 Gray and Hill 8,9

The findings of the early studies from Cancer Council Victoria are broadly confirmed by those of a survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics undertaken in 1977, which found that 36% of the adult population (aged 18 and over) were smokers: 43% of men and 29% of women.14

Table 1.3.3 shows the proportion of smokers in the population aged 18 and over from 1980 to 2010, standardised on the basis of the population structure as at 2001. Taking into account the ageing of the population and other demographic trends over that period, the prevalence of smoking declined for both sexes over this period, the most dramatic drop occurring among males between 1983 and 1986, when prevalence decreased relatively by 15%. The differential in smoking rates between the sexes has also continued to close (while remaining statistically significant across the years except for 1998), largely due to greater numbers of men quitting smoking during the mid-to-late 1980s. However, the overall rate of decline seen during the 1980s did not continue into the 1990s, when the prevalence of smoking levelled at about 26%. The trend of gradual decline resumed for both sexes after 1998, but slowed again between 2001 and 2004. Data for 2010 show a statistically significant decline in the prevalence of smoking since 2004 for males, females, and the total sample. The decline between 2007 and 2010 was significant only for females.

Table 1.3.3
Prevalence of regular* smoker†in Australia aged 18+, 1980–2010

Year

Male

Female

Total

1980

41

30

35

1983

40

29

35

1986

34

28

31

1989

30

27

28

1992

29

24

27

1995

29

24

26

1998

27

25

26

2001

25

21

23

2004

24

20

22

2007

23

19

21

2010

22

18

20

% difference 1980–2010

-19

-12

-15

Relative change 1980–2010

-46

-40

-43

* See footnote ii in Section 1.2 for explanatory notes regarding methodology used in attaining this data set. Prior to 2001, figures represent those describing themselves as 'current smokers' (no frequency specified). Since 2001 the figures include those reporting that they smoke 'daily' or 'at least weekly'.

† Includes persons smoking any combination of cigarettes, pipes or cigars

‡ All data weighted to 2001 census population data and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition and to the figures provided in the last three reports of the National Drug Strategy Household Survey because it is standardised to the 2001 census.

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from surveys conducted by the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria from 1980 to 1998 and from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey since 2001

Hill and colleagues have suggested that the pattern of decline in smoking prevalence correlates with the level of tobacco control activities occurring at the time.15,16 The drop in male smoking rates seen in the early 1980s coincided with a period of new, well-funded media-led Quit campaigns15 and an upsurge in debate about tobacco control issues in the media, fuelled by the outspoken campaigning of groups such as the Australian Council on Smoking and Health and Action on Smoking and Health, and the widely publicised activities of the fringe groups MOP UP and BUGA UP.iii Conversely, the steady prevalence rates in both sexes seen during the 1990s correspond with a lull in legislative activity concerning tobacco advertising and smoking restrictions, and also with a sharp reduction in per capita expenditure on public education campaigns.15

The subsequent downturn in smoking prevalence seen by the end of the 1990s—see figures 1.3.1 and 1.3.2—may be attributable to the combined effects of increased tobacco taxes,17 additional smokefree legislation, and the National Tobacco Campaign, a mass-media led program aimed at encouraging cessation, which was launched in June 199718 and ran over several subsequent years19 (See also Chapter 10.)

Smoking remains a leading cause of death and disease in Australia, killing an estimated 15,531 people annually.20 Since just under one-quarter of the adult male population and one-fifth of the adult female population still smoke, and given that half of these smokers can be expected to die because of their tobacco use if they do not quit,21 the sequelae of tobacco-caused death and disease will remain for decades to come. Mortality caused by tobacco use is discussed in Chapter 3.

Figure 1.3.1
Prevalence of regular* smokers in Australia aged 18+, 1980–2010

* See footnote ii in Section 1.2 for explanatory notes regarding methodology used in attaining this data set. Prior to 2001, figures represent those describing themselves as 'current smokers' (no frequency specified). Since 2001 the figures include those reporting that they smoke 'daily' or 'at least weekly'.

† Includes persons smoking any combination of cigarettes, pipes or cigars

‡ All data weighted to 2001 census population data and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition and to the figures provided in the last three reports of the National Drug Strategy Household Survey because it is standardised to the 2001 census.

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from surveys conducted by the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria from 1980 to 1998 and from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey since 2001

Figure 1.3.2
Prevalence of regular* smokers in Australia aged 18+,1980–2010, males and females

* See footnote ii in Section 1.2 for explanatory notes regarding methodology used in attaining this data set. Prior to 2001, figures represent those describing themselves as 'current smokers' (no frequency specified). Since 2001 the figures include those reporting that they smoke 'daily' or 'at least weekly'.

† Includes persons smoking any combination of cigarettes, pipes or cigars

‡ All data weighted to 2001 census population data and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition and to the figures provided in the last three reports of the National Drug Strategy Household Survey because it is standardised to the 2001 census.

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from surveys conducted by the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria from 1980 to 1998 and from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey since 2001


i
Prevalence estimates derived from the ABS National Health Survey (a 'drop and collect' survey),
4. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4826.0.55.001 Occasional Paper: Health Risk Factors – a guide to time series comparability from the National Health Survey, Australia, 2004 Canberra: ABS, 2004 Last modified 18 December 2006 [viewed December 2007] . Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/ProductsbyCatalogue/615974DC68259544CA256EB4007C3E92?OpenDocument
have tended to be higher than those derived from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey which in 2001 to 2007 was conducted using a mixture of telephone-based and 'drop and collect' surveys.
5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: technical report. Prepared by Roy Morgan Research, AIHW cat no. PHE 98. Canberra: AIHW, 2008. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/phe/ndshs07-fr/ndshs07-fr-no-questionnaire.pdf
The 2010 NDSHS moved to 100% 'drop and collect' surveys. It is likely that estimates derived for the ABS National Health Survey in 2010 and 2013 will be closer to those derived from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey in similar years.

ii Note. Targets for smoking prevalence established in the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health use the ABS National Health Survey 2007 as the base rate and the basis for future state and territory targets—see Section 1.14 for further details.
6. Commonwealth of Australia, the State of New South Wales, the State of Victoria, the state of Queensland, the state of Western Australia, the state of South Australia, et al. National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health. Council of Australian Governments, 2009. Available from: http://www.federalfinancialrelations.gov.au/content/national_partnership_agreements/health/preventative_health/national_overview.pdf

iii MOP UP and BUGA UP were acronyms for The Movement Opposed to the Promotion of Unhealthy Products and Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions respectively. Readers interested in the history and activities of these lobbying groups are referred in the first instance to: Chapman S. Civil disobedience and tobacco control: the case of BUGA UP (Billboard Utilising Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions). Tobacco Control 1996;5:179–85. Available from http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/5/3/179

References

1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: survey report. Drug statistics series no. 25, AIHW cat. no. PHE 145. Canberra: AIHW, 2011. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=32212254712&libID=32212254712&tab=2

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4364.0 National Health Survey: summary of results (re-issue), 2007–08 Canberra: ABS, 2009. Available from: http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/9FD6625F3294CA36CA25761C0019DDC5/$File/43640_2007-2008%20%28reissue%29.pdf

3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: detailed findings. Drug statistics series no. 22, AIHW cat. no. PHE 107. Canberra: AIHW, 2008. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/10674

4. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4826.0.55.001 Occasional Paper: Health Risk Factors – a guide to time series comparability from the National Health Survey, Australia, 2004 Canberra: ABS, 2004 Last modified 18 December 2006 [viewed December 2007] . Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/ProductsbyCatalogue/615974DC68259544CA256EB4007C3E92?OpenDocument

5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: technical report. Prepared by Roy Morgan Research, AIHW cat no. PHE 98. Canberra: AIHW, 2008. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/phe/ndshs07-fr/ndshs07-fr-no-questionnaire.pdf

6. Commonwealth of Australia, the State of New South Wales, the State of Victoria, the state of Queensland, the state of Western Australia, the state of South Australia, et al. National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health. Council of Australian Governments, 2009. Available from: http://www.federalfinancialrelations.gov.au/content/national_partnership_agreements/health/preventative_health/national_overview.pdf

7. Woodward S. Trends in cigarette consumption in Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Medicine 1984;14(4):405–7. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6596048

8. Gray N and Hill D. Patterns of tobacco smoking in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia 1975;2(22):819–22. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1207580

9. Gray N and Hill D. Patterns of tobacco smoking in Australia II. Medical Journal of Australia 1977;2(10):327–8. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/927253

10. Doll R and Hill A. A study of the aetiology of carcinoma of the lung. British Medical Journal 1952;2(4797):1271–86. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2022425/pdf/brmedj03472-0009.pdf

11. Wynder E and Graham E. Tobacco smoking as a possible etiologic factor in bronchogenic carcinoma. Journal of the American Medical Association 1950;143(4):329–36. Available from: http://www.tobacco.neu.edu/box/BOEKENBox/Journal%20Articles/1950%20Wynder%20Possible%20Etiolog%20Factor.pdf

12. Royal College of Physicians. Smoking and health: a report of the Royal College of Physicians on smoking in relation to cancer of the lung and other diseases. London: Pitman Medical Publishing Co Ltd, 1962.

13. US Department of Health and Education and Welfare. Smoking and health. Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service. Rockville, Maryland: US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Public Health Service, 1964. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/pre_1994/index.htm

14. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4380.0 Alcohol and tobacco consumption patterns, February 1977. Canberra: ABS, 1977.

15. Hill DJ, White VM and Scollo MM. Smoking behaviours of Australian adults in 1995: trends and concerns. Medical Journal of Australia 1998;168(5):209–13. Available from: http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/mar2/hill/hill.html

16. White V, Hill D, Siahpush M and Bobevski I. How has the prevalence of cigarette smoking changed among Australian adults? Trends in smoking prevalence between 1980 and 2001. Tobacco Control 2003;12(suppl. 2):ii67–ii74. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/12/suppl_2/ii67

17. Scollo M, Younie S, Wakefield M, Freeman J and Icasiano F. Impact of tobacco tax reforms on tobacco prices and tobacco use in Australia. Tobacco Control 2003;12(suppl. 2):ii59–ii66. Available from: http://tc.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/abstract/12/suppl_2/ii59

18. Wooldridge M. Preface. In Hassard, K, edn.Australia's National Tobacco Campaign. Evaluation Report Volume One. Every cigarette is doing you damage. Canberra: Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, 1999 Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/wcms/Publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-publicat-document-metadata-tobccamp.htm/$FILE/tobccamp_a.pdf

19. The Social Research Centre. National Tobacco Survey: smoking prevalence and consumption 1997–2005. Sydney: for the Research and Marketing Group, Business Group, Department of Health and Ageing, 2006. Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/quitnow/publishing.nsf/Content/9881124EAEC5A935CA25786000797D14/$File/ntspre05.pdf

20. Begg S, Vos T, Barker B, Stevenson C, Stanley L and Lopez A. The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003. AIHW cat. no. PHE 82. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2007. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/10317

21. Doll R, Peto R, Boreham J and Sutherland I. Mortality in relation to smoking: 50 years' observations on male British doctors. British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Ed.) 2004;328(7455):1519. Available from: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/328/7455/1519

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