2.3 Self-reported measures of tobacco consumption

Last updated: November 2016
Suggested citation: Greenhalgh, EM, Scollo, MM, & Bayly, M. 2.3 Self-reported measures of tobacco consumption. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2016. Available from http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-2-consumption/2-3-self-reported-measures-of-tobacco-consumption

The tables in Section 2.1.3 and 2.2.2 provide estimates of consumption among adult smokers in Australia based on official sources that record the volume of tobacco products on which duties (excise or customs) are collected. The data presented in this section, by contrast, show the average number of cigarettes smoked as reported by cigarette smokers when questioned about their personal consumption in national surveys.i

2.3.1 Self-reported consumption among adult smokers

Figure 2.3.1 shows estimated daily consumption since 1980 among regular smokers of factory made cigarettes.

 

Figure 2.3.1
Self-reported (factory made) cigarettes smoked per day, regular* smokers in Australia aged 18+ years, 1980 to 2013—by sex

Sources: V White, personal communication, using data collected in triennial surveys conducted by Cancer Council Victoria and reported in Hill and Gray 19821 and 1984;2 Hill 1988;3 Hill, White and Gray 1991;3, 4 Hill and White 1995;5 Hill, White and Scollo 1998;6 White et al 20037† and Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20138-12

Note that for the Cancer Council surveys until 1998, estimates of numbers of cigarettes smoked daily are calculated using reported number of cigarette packets smoked each week, taking into account the total number of packets reported and the size of the usual packet smoked. The figures relate only to smokers who mostly smoked factory made cigarettes. People who smoked mostly cigars, pipes or roll-your-own tobacco were not asked about numbers of cigarettes smoked in Cancer Council Victoria surveys (1980 to 2001).

†Figures included in reports of Hill et al surveys prior to 1998 were based on smoking among people 16 years and over. Consumption estimates have been recalculated here for smokers 18 years and over.

* Smoked daily or weekly

‡ NDSHS data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition. See also notes on methodology in Section 1.2.

Consumption of factory made cigarettes appears to increase over the 1980s and then decline over the 1990s. Compared with 1980, reported average consumption in 2013 was about 33% lower in men and 25% lower in women. The decline in reported daily consumption between 2001 and 2013 was statistically significant for both men and for women.

Another way of looking at consumption over time is to examine any changes in the proportion of light, moderate, and heavy smokers. Figures 2.3.2 and 2.3.3 show the proportions of light (14 cigarettes or fewer per day), moderate (15 to 24 cigarettes per day), and heavy (25 or more cigarettes per day) daily smokers of factory made cigarettes only (Figure 2.3.2) and of roll-your-own and factory made cigarettes (Figure 2.3.3). These figures also show the mean number of cigarettes smoked per day among all daily smokers in each group.

Figure 2.3.2
Percentage of daily smokers who are light, moderate and heavy smokers, and mean self-reported cigarettes smoked per day (factory made only), Australia, 2001* to 2013

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20138-12

* Consumption assessed using a different method in 2001 to that used in later years.

‡ NDSHS data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition

Figure 2.3.3
Percentage of daily smokers who are light, moderate, and heavy smokers, and mean self-reported cigarettes smoked per day (factory made and roll your own), Australia 2001* to 2013

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20138-12

*Consumption assessed using a different method in 2001 to that used in later years.

‡ NDSHS data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition

In the most recent period of 2010–2013, the proportion of heavy smokers significantly decreased both among smokers of factory made cigarettes only, and among smokers of factory made and roll your own cigarettes (controlling for age and sex). The proportion of light smokers also significantly increased in both groups over the same period. There was no meaningful change in the proportion of moderate smokers in Figures 2.3.2 and 2.3.3. The apparent decline in average daily consumption from 2010 to 2013 appears to be driven by this decline in heavy smokers relative to light smokers.

2.3.2.1 Self-reported consumption patterns by age: adults

The reported number of factory made cigarettes smoked per day by adult cigarette smokers in various age groups since 1980 is shown in Figure 2.3.4 and Table 2.3.1.

Figure 2.3.4
Self-reported cigarettes (factory made only) smoked per day, current* smokers in Australia aged 18+ years, 1980 to 2013—by age group

Sources: Hill and Gray 1982 and 1984;1, 2 Hill 1988;3 Hill, White and Gray 1991;3, 4 Hill and White 1995;5 Hill, White and Scollo 1998;6 White et al 20037 and Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20138-12

* Smoked daily, weekly, or less than weekly

‡ NDSHS data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition

Table 2.3.1
Self-reported cigarettes (factory made only) smoked per day, current* smokers in Australia aged 18+ years, 2001 to 2013—by age group

Sources: Hill and Gray 1982 and 1984;1, 2 Hill 1988;3 Hill, White and Gray 1991;3, 4 Hill and White 1995;5 Hill, White and Scollo 1998;6 White et al 20037 and Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20138-12

* Smoked daily, weekly, or less than weekly

‡ NDSHS data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition

Up until 2001, smokers aged 30 years or older appeared to be the heaviest smokers—particularly those aged 40–59 years—while those aged less than 25 years consistently had the lowest average daily consumption. In 2001 to 2013, the youngest smokers continued to have among the lowest daily consumption. Comparisons between age groups—within each survey year from 2001 to 2013, controlling for sex—show that those aged 18–39 years had significantly lower average daily factory made consumption than those aged 40—59 years and those aged 60+ years.

Analysis of national survey data shows that between 2001 and 2013, middle-aged (40–59 years) and older (60+ years) smokers were significantly more likely to be heavy smokers than those under 40 years (controlling for sex). Similarly, smokers under 40 were significantly more likely to be light smokers in each of the survey years since 2001. However, since 2001, daily consumption of factory made cigarettes has significantly declined among all age groups for both men and women except for the youngest (18–24 years) and oldest (60+ years) smokers.

Table 2.3.2 shows the total average consumption of both factory made and roll your own cigarettes by age group and sex.

Table 2.3.2
Self-reported cigarettes (factory made and roll your own) smoked per day, current* smokers in Australia aged 18+ years, 2001 to 2013—by age group and sex

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20138-12

* Smoked daily, weekly, or less than weekly

‡ NDSHS data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition

Similar to consumption of factory made cigarettes, consumption of factory made and roll your own cigarettes significantly decreased among men and women in all age groups since 2001, except for those aged 60+ years and women aged 18–24 years. Among men, consumption increased in the youngest group in 2010 relative to 2001 to 2007, while average consumption among those aged 60+ years was slightly lower in 2013 than in 2004 to 2010. No such change was detected among women in the older group. Middle-aged and older smokers were again more likely to be heavy smokers, and less likely to be light smokers, compared with those under 40 years.

2.3.2 Self-reported consumption among school-aged smokers

Cancer Council Victoria (formerly the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria) has co-ordinated surveys examining smoking prevalence of children attending Australian secondary schools every three years since 1984. The prevalence of smoking among secondary school students is described in full in Chapter 1, Section 1.6.

Figure 2.3.5 sets out weekly consumption reported in each survey year by secondary school students who smoked at least one cigarette in the last week (classified as ‘current smokers’).

Figure 2.3.5
Self-reported average number of cigarettes smoked per week by Australian secondary school students who smoke at least weekly: aged 12 to 15 years and 16 and 17 years, 1984 to 2014

Sources: V White, personal communication, using data from Hill, Willcox, Gardner and Houston;13 Hill, White, Pain and Gardner 1990;14 Hill, White, Williams and Gardner 1993;15 Hill, White and Segan 1995;16 Hill, White and Letcher 1999;17 Hill, White and Effendi 2002;18 and White and Hayman 200419 and 2006,20 White and Smith 2009,21 White and Bariola 2012,22 and White and Williams 2015.23

Since the surveys began 30 years ago, smoking consumption has declined substantially among secondary students. Among 12–15 year olds, the number of cigarettes smoked per week has declined by about 33%, and for 16-17 year olds, the decline is even greater at about 44%. In 2013, 16- and 17-year-olds reported smoking a significantly greater number of cigarettes each week than 12- to 15-year-olds. Among all students, male current smokers smoked significantly more cigarettes per week than female current smokers.23

Figure 2.3.6 shows consumption over time among current smokers by age group and sex.

Figure 2.3.6
Self-reported average number of cigarettes smoked in past week by Australian secondary school students who smoke at least weekly: aged 12 to 15 years and 16 and 17 years, by sex, 1984 to 2014

Sources: T Williams and V White, personal communication, using data from Hill, Willcox, Gardner and Houston;13 Hill, White, Pain and Gardner 1990;14 Hill, White, Williams and Gardner 1993;15 Hill, White and Segan 1995;16 Hill, White and Letcher 1999;17 Hill, White and Effendi 2002;18 White and Hayman 200419 and 2006;20 White and Smith 2009;21 White and Bariola 2012;22 and White and Williams 2015.23

Among all students, male current smokers smoked significantly more cigarettes per week than female current smokers.23 Consumption in 2014 among 16–17 year old female current smokers was significantly lower than each of the previous survey years.

2.3.3 Self-reported consumption by socioeconomic status

Along with being more likely to take up and continue smoking (see Section 1.7), people who are socio-economically disadvantaged generally consume greater numbers of cigarettes each day than smokers who are socio-economically advantaged. Figure 2.3.6 shows average daily factory made and roll your own cigarette consumption among regular smokers by socio-economic group and year. Average consumption in 2013 was at least marginally lower than all other survey years for the most disadvantaged (first quintile) and second quintile smokers, and fourth quintile smokers (controlling for sex and age). For the most recent period of 2010 to 2013, average consumption was significantly lower for all socio-economic groups except for the most advantaged (although consumption in 2013 in this group was significantly lower than 2001–2007). Encouragingly, the decrease in consumption was greatest among the most disadvantaged smokers. Figure 2.3.6 shows these trends since 2001.

Figure 2.3.7
Daily consumption among regular* smokers† in Australia aged 18+ years, 2001 to 2013‡—by Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA)

* Smoked daily or weekly

† Includes persons smoking factory made cigarettes and/or roll-you-own

Sources: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20138-12

‡ All data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition

2.3.4 Self-reported consumption by education level

People with higher education levels are less likely to be smokers (see Section 1.7). In addition, among those who do smoke, increasing education levels are also associated with decreased consumption. In each of the survey years since 2001, smokers with a tertiary (university) level education were significantly less likely to be heavy smokers than smokers with lower levels of education (controlling for sex and age).

Within each group, average daily consumption in 2013 was significantly lower than all other years for those with certificate III or IV or university education (controlling for sex and age). Among those with year 9 or lower schooling, consumption in 2013 was at least marginally lower than all years except 2007. Those with year 10 or 11 schooling showed only a marginal decline in consumption in 2013 relative to 2010, while average consumption in 2013 among those with year 12 or equivalent schooling was only lower than in 2001. Figure 2.3.8 shows these trends across time.

Figure 2.3.8
Daily consumption among regular* smokers† in Australia aged 18+ years, 2001 to 2013‡—by education level

* Smoked daily or weekly

† Includes persons smoking factory made cigarettes and/or roll-you-own

Sources: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20138-12

‡ All data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition 

2.3.4 Self-reported consumption by occupation

Although people who are retired are less likely to smoke (see Section 1.7), those who do smoke appear to consume the greatest number of cigarettes per day. Figure 2.3.8 shows trends in employment status and average daily consumption from 2001 to 2013. Consumption was significantly lower in 2013 than in all prior survey years among those retired or on a pension, those currently employed, and at least marginally lower among those unemployed or looking for work. There were no differences in average consumption in 2013 compared to other years for students, while for those engaged in home duties, consumption in 2013 was only significantly lower than in 2001.

Figure 2.3.9
Daily consumption among regular* smokers† in Australia aged 18+ years, 2001 to 2013‡—by employment status

* Smoked daily or weekly

† Includes persons smoking factory made cigarettes and/or roll-you-own

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20138-12

‡ All data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition

Among people who are employed, consumption differs by occupation level. People in blue collar occupations are more likely to smoke (see Section 1.7), and more likely to smoke heavily than people in white collar occupations. Table 2.3.3 shows consumption by occupation level since 1980. Due to the change in occupation classifications in the 2010 survey onward, trends should be interpreted with some caution.

Table 2.3.3
Self-reported daily consumption by regular smokers* 18 years and over by occupation level, Australia, 1980 to 2013

Upper white collar: includes professionals, business owners, executives, farm owners, semi-professionals

Lower white collar: includes sales, other white collar

Upper blue collar: includes skilled workers

Lower blue collar: includes semi-skilled, unskilled, farm workers.

Note: classifications changed in 2010 such that some occupations that would have been classed as Upper Blue in 2007 may be classified as Lower Blue in 2010. Trade persons are classified as Upper Blue in 2010 but would have been classified as Lower White in previous years. For more information see the ABS website24

* Smoked daily or weekly

† Includes persons smoking factory made cigarettes and/or roll-you-own

Sources: V White, personal communication, using data from: Hill and Gray 1984;2 Hill 1988;3 Hill, White and Gray 1991;3, 4 Hill and White 1995;5 Hill, White and Scollo 1998;6 White et al 20037 and Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20138-12

‡ All data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition 

Table 2.3.3 shows that average consumption declined in all occupation groups from 2001 onward. In 2013, consumption was significantly lower than all other years among lower blue collar and upper white collar workers (controlling for sex and age). Among upper blue and lower white collar workers, consumption in 2013 was not significantly different to 2010 or 2007, but was lower than 2001 and 2004. In each of the survey years since 2001, smokers in lower blue collar occupations were significantly more likely to be heavy smokers than smokers in white collar occupations.

2.3.4 Comparisons between levels of per capita tobacco consumption based on tax receipts and those based on self-report data

It is well established that smokers tend to under-report their tobacco consumption.25

See Section 13.7.8.2 for an analysis of the extent to which consumption generates lower estimates of total population consumption than estimates based on receipts for payments of customs and excise duty.

For further discussion about the relative validity of various methods of estimating consumption, see Section 2.6.

i As with all survey data, estimates are subject to sampling error. Confidence intervals associated with this data could be supplied on request.

Recent news and research

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