1.4 Prevalence of smoking—young adults

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Young adults are defined here as people between the age of 18 and 39.

1.4.1 Latest estimates of prevalence of smoking among young adults

The report of the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey provides estimates of prevalence of smoking among age groups in ten-year breaks. These are reproduced here in the table below.

Table 1.4.1
Young adults—percentage of daily, regular and current smokers* by age group, sex and total population—ages 18 & 19, 20–29 and 30–39

18 & 19

20 & 29

30 & 39

Males

Daily

13.2

19.7

20.2

Weekly

3.3*

3.0

2.3

Total regular smokers (daily plus weekly)

16.5

22.7

22.5

Less than weekly

0.7**

3.1

2.8

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

17.2

25.8

25.3

Ex-smokers†

4.0*

11.4

23.0

Never smokers‡

78.8

62.8

51.6

Females

Daily

12.8

16.3

16.8

Weekly

1.1**

2.7

1.4

Total regular smokers (daily plus weekly)

13.9

19.0

18.2

Less than weekly

1.5*

2.5

1.8

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

15.4

21.5

20.0

Ex-smokers†

2.8*

12.0

25.6

Never smokers‡

81.8

66.5

54.5

Persons (males and females)

Daily

13.0

18.0

18.5

Weekly

2.2*

2.9

1.9

Total regular smokers (daily plus weekly)

15.2

20.9

20.4

Less than weekly

1.1*

2.8

2.3

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

16.3

23.7

22.7

Ex-smokers†

3.4

11.7

24.3

Never smokers‡

80.2

64.6

53.1

* 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

1.4.2 Trends in smoking prevalence among young adults

Table 1.4.2 compares smoking rates for men and women in three age groups spanning young adulthood to early middle age, between 1980 and 2010. Data is age-standardised.

Table 1.4.2
Young adults—percentage of regular* smokers† by age group, sex and total population for age group, 1980–2010‡

Age group

18–24

25–29

30–39

Sex

Male

Female

Total

Male

Female

Total

Male

Female

Total

1980

54

41

47

48

42

45

41

35

38

1983

44

46

45

49

34

42

43

31

37

1986

41

39

40

38

39

39

35

30

32

1989

37

38

37

38

36

37

36

30

33

1992

35

35

35

37

33

35

32

28

30

1995

34

36

35

35

35

35

33

30

31

1998

34

32

33

32

36

34

35

32

34

2001

30

29

30

34

28

31

30

27

28

2004

26

27

27

30

28

29

29

25

27

2007

23

22

22

29

28

28

26

22

24

2010

24

21

22

27

22

25

24

18

21

* 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 data reported in AIHW reports for 2010 and other years.

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.

The prevalence of smoking has declined over the study period for both sexes in all age groups, and, over the passage of time, smoking rates have converged across the age groups as well. As among the whole adult population (Table 1.3.3 in Section 1.3), the trend in decline levelled off during the 1990s in young adults, before falling again in the late 1990s and early 2000s2. The falls recorded between 2004 and 2010 were statistically significant among 18–24 year olds, 25–29 year olds, and 30–39 year olds—all three young adult age groups. Declines in smoking between 2004 and 2010 among the 30–39 years age group were significant for both males and females. However, among 18–24 year olds and 25–29 year olds, the decline was only significant for females. Reductions in smoking within these age groups may be a reflection of the decline in smoking among teenagers in the late 1990s—see Section 1.6.

Up until 2007, the proportion of adult smokers aged 18–24 years has been very similar to the proportion aged 25–29 years, with both declining at a similar rate since 1980. In 2007 and 2010 the proportion of 18–24 year olds smoking dropped sharply and was significantly lower than the proportion of 25–29 year olds (see Table 1.4.1). Before 1995, significantly more adults in the 18–24 year age group smoked than those aged between 30 and 39 (except in 1989). However, between 1995 and 2010 the differential across these age groups was no longer statistically significant. Prior to 2007, younger people were also consistently more likely to smoke than those over the age of 40. However in 2010, those aged 18–24 were only significantly more likely to be smokers than those aged 60 years or older (see Table 1.5.1 in Section 1.5). Smoking patterns among the Australian population aged 40 and over are discussed in the following section.

Analysis of National Drug Strategy Household Survey data for 2001 and 2004 indicated that the convergence in smoking prevalence between the sexes was due to fewer younger males becoming regular smokers, at the same time as females have been more likely to take up smoking.2 Though the differences in smoking rates for men and women have fluctuated over the years and have often been non-significant, in 2010, smoking was significantly more prevalent among women in all age groups.

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. Morley KI and Hall WD. Explaining the convergence of male and female smoking prevalence in Australia. Addiction 2008;103(3):487–95. Available from: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/119411904/abstract

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