2.3 Self-reported measures of tobacco consumption

Last updated: December 2017
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; 2017. 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 2016—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 2001–2016 8-12,13

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 2016 was about 36% lower in men and 29% lower in women. The decline in reported daily consumption between 2001 and 2016 was statistically significant for both men and for women (controlling for age).

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) both among  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 2016

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20168-12,13

* 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 2016

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20168-13

*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 2013–2016, the proportion of daily smokers who are light smokers significantly increased among both groups (controlling for age and sex). The proportion of smokers of factory made cigarettes who are moderate smokers significantly decreased, while the proportion of smokers of factory made and roll your own cigarettes who are moderate smokers, and the proportions of smokers in both groups who are heavy smokers, remained fairly stable over this period.

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 2001–20168-13 ‡

* 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 2016—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 2001–2016 8-13  

* 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

Since the surveys began, younger smokers have consistently reported lower consumption than older smokers. Comparisons between age groups—within each survey year from 2001 to 2016, controlling for sex—show that those aged under 40 had significantly lower average daily factory made consumption than those aged 40—59 years and those aged 60+ years. Since 2001, daily consumption of factory made cigarettes has significantly declined among women of all age groups, while among men consumption has declined among all groups 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 2016—by age group and sex

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–20168-13 ‡

* 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 in all age groups since 2001, except for the youngest and oldest groups. Among women, consumption decreased among all groups except the youngest.  Middle-aged and older smokers again reported significantly higher consumption in each survey year, 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;14 Hill, White, Pain and Gardner 1990;15 Hill, White, Williams and Gardner 1993;16 Hill, White and Segan 1995;17 Hill, White and Letcher 1999;18 Hill, White and Effendi 2002;19 and White and Hayman 200420 and 2006,21 White and Smith 2009,22 White and Bariola 2012,23 and White and Williams 2015.24

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.24

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;14 Hill, White, Pain and Gardner 1990;15 Hill, White, Williams and Gardner 1993;16 Hill, White and Segan 1995;17 Hill, White and Letcher 1999;18 Hill, White and Effendi 2002;19 White and Hayman 200420 and 2006;21 White and Smith 2009;22 White and Bariola 2012;23 and White and Williams 2015.24

Among all students, male current smokers smoked significantly more cigarettes per week than female current smokers.24 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. Since 2001, there has been a significant decrease in consumption within each socioeconomic group. For the most recent period of 2013 to 2016, however, there were no significant changes. 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 2016‡—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 2001–2016 8-13

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

 

For a detailed discussion of consumption over time by various indicators of disadvantage, see Section 9.2.

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.26

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.


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