1.12Prevalence of use of different types of tobacco product

Last updated: March 2021
Suggested citation: Greenhalgh, EM, Bayly, M, Hanley-Jones, S & Scollo, MM. 1.12 Prevalence of use of different types of tobacco product. In Greenhalgh, EM, Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH editors.  Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2021. Available from  https://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-1-prevalence/1-12-prevalence-of-use-of-different-types-of-tobac

1.12.1 Manufactured cigarettes, roll-your-own cigarettes, pipes and cigars

Most tobacco consumed in Australia is in the form of factory-made cigarettes. Data on prevalence of use of different types of tobacco products were collected by Cancer Council Victoria (formerly the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria) in regular surveys undertaken between 1974 and 1998, and more recently were reported in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s National Drug Strategy Household Surveys. Between 1974 and 1998 male smokers were more likely than female smokers to use pipes or cigars exclusively ( Table 1.12.1).

Table 1.12.1
Prevalence of smoking by type of tobacco used, Australian smokers by sex aged 18+, 1974–1998 (data not weighted)


* Pipe/cigar smokers are only those that smoke tobacco in these forms exclusively. Smokers who use a mix of cigarettes and pipes/cigars are included with cigarette smokers.

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, unpublished data.

The National Drug Strategy Household Surveys have also collected data on the type of tobacco smoked ( Table 1.12.2). These findings show that manufactured cigarettes remain by far the most popular choice among smokers, especially among women.

 Table 1.12.2
Type of tobacco smoked* among tobacco smokers aged 18 years and over, Australia, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019


* Respondents could select more than one response therefore totals do not equal 100.

Respondents were classified as using the different tobacco product if they indicated at least some use of the product in the past 12 months, irrespective of recency of use and even if they had never smoked 100 cigarettes.

 Sources: National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001,1  2004,2  2007,3, 2010,5  and 2013,6  and Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer analysis of 2013,6 20168  and 20199, National Drug Strategy Household Survey data. 

A large international study on the prevalence and user characteristics of RYO tobacco in Australia and other countries published in 2006 suggested that exclusive RYO smokers are more likely to be male, older, to have a lower level of income, and to have less education.10 This study found that about one-quarter of Australian smokers used RYO products: 15% combined use of manufactured cigarettes and RYO tobacco, and 9% reported exclusive use of RYO.10 

More recent research suggested a changing pattern of use of RYO among Australian adult smokers.11 Use of manufactured cigarettes declined from 2004 to 2016, while the overall proportion of RYO smokers remained stagnant and the proportion of exclusive RYO smokers increased significantly. This coincided with a dramatic increase in smaller RYO pouches on the Australian market with a lower upfront purchase price. This pattern of use has continued in the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which has shown a decline in manufactured cigarette use to 2016 and flattening in 2019, but a dramatic increase in RYO use from 2016 to 2019 (see table 2.14 of the Tobacco Smoking Chapter of the NDSHS report).7 The proportion of RYO smokers 18 years and over that exclusively used RYO increased significantly (from 10.8% of smokers in 2016 to 13.8% in 2019) and the proportion only smoking manufactured cigarettes also declined substantially (from 63.0% to 54.0%) in line with the increase in the proportion of those using both manufactured and roll-your-own cigarettes (see table 2.14 of the NDSHS report). The proportion of young people aged 18­–24 exclusively smoking RYO cigarettes almost doubled between 2016 and 2019; the proportion aged 15–24 similarly significantly increased from 11.5% to 20.7% (see table 2.8 of the NDSHS).7

1.12.2 Unbranded loose tobacco ('chop-chop')

Chop-chop is finely cut, unbranded ‘black market’ tobacco which has been grown, distributed and sold without government intervention or taxation.12 Due to its comparative cheapness, some smokers have adopted it as an alternative to, or in addition to, smoking manufactured tobacco.13, 14

Questions about the prevalence of usage of chop-chop have been asked in the most recent National Drug Strategy Household Surveys. In 2019, only 4.9% of smokers aged 14+ years reported currently using unbranded loose tobacco,7 a proportion not significantly higher than in 2016 (3.8%) and in 2013 (3.6%)15

Analysis of the data up to 2013 has shown prevalence of chop-chop use significantly declined among Australian adults from 2004 to 2013.15,16   Two small surveys undertaken in New South Wales showed varying degrees of penetration of chop-chop in the community.13,17  

Chop-chop is discussed further in Chapter 3, Section 3.27.2,  and in greatest detail in Chapter 13, Section 13.7.2.

1.12.3 Smokeless tobacco products


Although widely used overseas,18 smokeless tobacco products (those intended for sucking or chewing) are little used in Australia and data concerning the prevalence of their use are sparse. Results from the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey showed that very small numbers of Australians 14 years and older reported using chewing tobacco (0.6%), snus (0.3%), or snuff (0.3%) in the 12 months prior to completing the questionnaire, with more use among smokers (of cigarettes and other tobacco products) than among non-smokers.8 Leaves from naturally occurring nicotine-containing plants were chewed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples prior to the introduction of conventional tobacco products in the 18th century, first by Indonesian fishermen, and later by European settlers. In some Indigenous communities ‘bush’ tobaccos and manufactured loose or plug tobaccos are still chewed, either alone or in combination, but overall prevalence of use of these substances is extremely low.14,19-22 Tobacco chewing among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is discussed further in Chapter 8, Section 5 .

The import, sales and marketing of smokeless tobacco products in Australia is controlled by national legislation.23  For a detailed discussion of smokeless tobacco, see InDepth 18A

1.12.4 Other products

The 2019 National Drug Strategy Household survey also asked respondents about their use of cigarillos, waterpipe tobacco (shishas/hookahs/nargillas), and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). Among smokers aged 14 years or over, 10.6% currently used cigarillos—7.4% on a daily basis, 1.3% at least weekly and 2.0%  less than weekly.

Across Australians 14 years and older, 96% had never used waterpipes. Of current smokers 14 years and over asked how often they currently use waterpipe tobacco, 1.0% reported that they used a waterpipe daily, 0.7% used waterpipes at least weekly, and 2.4% did so less often than weekly.

For information about the prevalence of use of e-cigarettes, see  Section 18.3.

Relevant news and research

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1.   Australian Institute for Health and Welfare. 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: Detailed findings.  . Drug Statistics Series No. 11, Cat. No. PHE 41 Canberra: AIHW, 2002. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol-other-drug-treatment-services/2001-ndshs-detailed-findings/contents/table-of-contents.

2.   Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: Detailed findings Drug Statistics Series No. 16, Cat. No. PHE 66 Canberra: AIHW, 2005. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol-other-drug-treatment-services/2004-ndshs-detailed-findings/contents/table-of-contents.

3.   Australian Institute for Health and Welfare. 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey:  Detailed findings. Drug statistics series No. 22, Cat. No. PHE 107 Canberra: AIHW, 2008. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/2007-nhsds-detailed-findings/contents/table-of-contents.

4.   Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2007. Canberra: Australian Social Science Data Archive, The Australian National University, 2008. Viewed: July 2008.

5.   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: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/ndshs-2010/contents/table-of-contents.

6.   Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2013 [computer file], 2015, Australian Data Archive, The Australian National University: Canberra.

7.   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.

8.   Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2016 [computer file]. Canberra: Australian Data Archive, The Australian National University; 2017.

9.   Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2019. ADA Dataverse, 2021. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.26193/WRHDUL.

10. Young D, Borland R, Hammond D, Cummings KM, Devlin E, et al. Prevalence and attributes of roll-your-own smokers in the international tobacco control (ITC) four country survey. Tobacco Control, 2006; 15(suppl. 3):iii76–iii82. Available from: http://tc.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/abstract/15/suppl_3/iii76

11. Bayly M, Scollo MM, and Wakefield MA. Who uses rollies? Trends in product offerings, price and use of roll-your-own tobacco in Australia. Tobacco Control, 2019; 28:317-24. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30030409

12. Auditor-General. Administration of tobacco excise.  Audit report no. 55, 2001-02  performance audit. Canberra: Australian National Audit Office, Commonwealth of Australia, 2002. Available from: https://www.anao.gov.au/work/performance-audit/administration-tobacco-excise.

13. Bittoun R. "Chop chop" tobacco smoking  [letter] Medical Journal of Australia, 2002; 177:686-7. Available from: https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2002/177/11/chop-chop-tobacco-smoking

14. Lindorff K. Tobacco – time for action.  National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tobacco control project.  Final report. Canberra: National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), 2002.

15. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016 key findings data tables. Canberra: AIHW, 2017. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/2016-ndshs-detailed/data.

16. Scollo M, Zacher M, Bayly M, and Wakefield M. Who smokes unbranded illicit tobacco in Australia: Results of nationally representative crosssectional household surveys in 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2015. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1753-6405.12424

17. Walsh R, Paul C, and Stojanovski E. Illegal tobacco use in Australia: How big is the problem of chop-chop? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2006; 30(5):484-5. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17073235

18. World Health Organization and International Agency for Research on Cancer. Iarc monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans.  Volume 85:  Betel-quid and areca-nut chewing and some areca-nut-derived nitrosamines.  Summary of data reported and evaluation. Lyon: IARC, 2004. Available from: https://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol85/mono85.pdf.

19. Watson C, Fleming J, and Alexander K. A survey of drug use patterns in northern territory Aboriginal communities:1986-1987. Darwin, Australia: Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services, 1988.

20. Gilchrist D. Smoking prevalence among Aboriginal women. Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, 1998; 22:4-6.

21. Briggs VL, Lindorff KJ, and Ivers RG. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and tobacco. Tobacco Control, 2003; 12(suppl. 2):ii5-ii8. Available from: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/12/suppl_2/ii5

22. Brady M. Historical and cultural roots of tobacco use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2002; 26:116-20.

23. Attorney-General's Department and Commonwealth of Australia. Trade practices act 1974 (and amendments). Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, 2007. Available from: http://www.comlaw.gov.au/comlaw/management.nsf/lookupindexpagesbyid/IP200401339?OpenDocument.

24. Sachdev P and Chapman S. Availability of smokeless tobacco products in south asian grocery shops in sydney, 2004. Medical Journal of Australia, 2005; 183:334. Available from: http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/183_06_190905/letters_190905_fm-1.html