A1.16 Public perceptions of tobacco as a drug, and public opinion regarding tobacco control policies

A1.16.1 Public perceptions of tobacco as a drug

Tobacco contributes to more drug-related deaths in Australia than any other drug (see Chapter 3, Section 3.30) . However, the proportion of Australians who perceive tobacco as the drug that causes the most deaths has been falling, as has the proportion of people who perceive tobacco to be the drug of most concern to the community. 1 In 2019, ‘tobacco’ dropped to third most common drug that people thought caused the most deaths in Australia (behind alcohol and meth/amphetamine). 1 See Chapter 3, Section 3.34 for more.

 

Figure A1.16.1 Drug thought to cause the most deaths in Australia—Australians aged 14 and over, 2007 to 2019

 

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Data tables: National drug strategy household survey 2019 - 9. Perceptions and policy support supplementary tables. Canberra: AIHW, 2020. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey-2019/data  Table 9.3

 

When asked in 2019 which drug was thought to cause the most deaths in Australia, 19% of Australians aged 14 and over selected tobacco, a statistically significant decline since 2016 (24%) and down from 40% in 2007. 1

 

Figure A1.16.2 Drug thought to cause the most deaths in Australia, people aged 14 and over, 2007 to 2019

 

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Data tables: National drug strategy household survey 2019 - 9. Perceptions and policy support supplementary tables. Canberra: AIHW, 2020. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey-2019/data , Table 9.3

#Statistically significant change between 2016 and 2019.

Similarly, when asked in 2019 which drug was thought to be of most concern for the general community, 8% of Australians aged 14 and over selected tobacco, a statistically significant decline since 2016 (9%) and down from 17% in 2007. 1

 

Figure A1.16.3 Drug thought to be of most concern for the general community, people aged 14 and over, 2007 to 2019

 

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Data tables: National drug strategy household survey 2019 - 9. Perceptions and policy support supplementary tables. Canberra: AIHW, 2020. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey-2019/data , Table 9.5

# Statistically significant change between 2016 and 2019.

A1.16.2 Public opinion on tobacco control policies

As of 2019, the majority of Australians are in support of government policies aimed at reducing tobacco-related harm. Policies focused on protecting minors received the highest levels of support, including:

  • ‘Stricter enforcement of law against supplying minors’ (85%)
  • ‘Stricter penalties for sale or supply to minors’ (83%) and
  • ‘Prohibiting the sale of electronic cigarettes to people under 18 years of age’ (79%).

While still receiving support by the majority, ‘Raising the legal age for sale or supply of tobacco products to those aged 21 years and over’ received the second lowest level of support at 63%. ‘Making it harder to buy tobacco in shops’ was the least supported policy in 2019, with 61% of Australians saying they ‘support’ or ‘strongly support’ this policy.

 

Figure A1.16.4 Support(a) for measures to reduce the problems associated with tobacco, people age 14 and over, 2019

 

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Data tables: National drug strategy household survey 2019 - 2. Tobacco smoking chapter, supplementary data tables. Canberra: AIHW, 2020. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey-2019/data , Table 2.52.

(a) Support or strongly support.

*Banning all additives (e.g. flavouring) in cigarettes and other tobacco products, to make them less attractive to young people.

**Raising the legal age for sale or supply of tobacco products to those aged 21 years and over.

From 2016 to 2019, Australians’ level of support for government policies to reduce tobacco-related harm fell. Seven out of nine policies received less support in 2019 than in 2016. Measures related to tax increases showed a statistically significant decline in support between 2016 and 2019. 2

Figure A1.16.5 Support(a) for tax measures to reduce the problems associated with tobacco, people aged 14 and over, 2004 to 2019 (per cent)

 

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Data tables: National drug strategy household survey 2019 - 2. Tobacco smoking chapter, supplementary data tables. Canberra: AIHW, 2020. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey-2019/data , Table 2.52.
  1. Support or strongly support.

# Statistically significant change between 2016 and 2019.

In contrast, support for measures related to restrictions on the use and sale of e-cigarettes increased significantly between 2016 and 2019. 2 For more on Australian regulation of e-cigarettes see Chapter 18B, Section 18B.8.

>
Figure A1.16.6 Support(a) for e-cig measures to reduce the problems associated with tobacco, people aged 14 and over, 2016 and 2019

 

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Data tables: National drug strategy household survey 2019 - 2. Tobacco smoking chapter, supplementary data tables. Canberra: AIHW, 2020. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey-2019/data , Table 2.52

(a) Support or strongly support.

# Statistically significant change between 2016 and 2019.

 

Table A1.16.1 below shows a breakdown by state and territory of Australian’s level of support for measures to reduce the problems associated with tobacco in 2019.

 

Table A1.16.1 Support(a) for measures to reduce the problems associated with tobacco, people aged 14 and over, by state/territory, 2019
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Data tables: National drug strategy household survey 2019 - s. State fact sheet supplementary tables. Cat. no. PHE 270 Canberra: AIHW, 2020. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey-2019/data , Table S.46.

(a) Support or strongly support.

(b) State results do not include data from the 8 Indigenous remote communities interviewed in the NT in 2019. These data are included in national estimates.

Note: Base excludes people that 'did not know enough to say'.

For more information on public opinions regarding tobacco control policy see:

National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019, Summary - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (aihw.gov.au)

Data tables: National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 - 2 Tobacco smoking supplementary tables

Data tables: National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 - 9 Perceptions and policy support supplementary tables

Data tables: National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 - State and territory fact sheet supplementary tables  

 

References

1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Data tables: National drug strategy household survey 2019 - 9. Perceptions and policy support supplementary tables. Canberra: AIHW, 2020. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey-2019/data.

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Data tables: National drug strategy household survey 2019 - 2. Tobacco smoking chapter, supplementary data tables. Canberra: AIHW, 2020. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey-2019/data.