1.12Prevalence of use of different types of tobacco product

Last updated: D July 2020
Suggested citation: Greenhalgh, EM, Bayly, M, Hanley-Jones, S & Scollo, MM 1.11 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; 2020. Available from  http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-1-prevalence/1-11-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Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, unpublished data.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.

 Sources: National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001,1  2004,2  2007,3, 2010,5  20136  and 20197 , and Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer analysis of 20136 and 20168  National Drug Strategy Household Survey data. Figures for male and female smokers 18 years and over will be added once the data file for the survey becomes available.

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.9 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.9  More recent research suggested a changing pattern of use of RYO among Australian adult smokers.10 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 in 2019 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 signifcantly 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.11 Due to its comparative cheapness, some smokers have adopted it as an alternative to, or in addition to, smoking manufactured tobacco.12,13

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%)14

Analysis of the data up to 2013 has shown prevalence of chop-chop use significantly declined among Australian adults from 2004 to 2013.14,15 Two small surveys undertaken in New South Wales showed varying degrees of penetration of chop-chop in the community.12,16  

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,17 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 Australians14 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.13,18-21 Tobacco chewing among the Australian Indigenous population is discussed further in Chapter 8, Section 5 .

The import, sales and marketing of smokeless tobacco products in Australia is controlled by national legislation.22 However a recent survey showing that smokeless tobacco products are readily available from some South Asian shops in Sydney suggests that there is sufficient local demand for these products for importers and shopkeepers to risk breaking the law.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% never use 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  InDepth 18B.3.

Relevant news and research

For recent news items and research on this topic, click here.(Last updated October 2020)



1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: detailed findings. Drug statistics series no. 11, AIHW 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 strategy series no.16, AIHW 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 of Health and Welfare. 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: detailed findings. Drug statistics series no. 22, AIHW 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:  http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=32212254712&libID=32212254712&tab=2.

6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report: 2013. Cat. no. PHE 183 Canberra: AIHW, 2014. Available from:  http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129549469&tab=3 .

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. 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  

10. 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

11. Bittoun R. 'Chop chop' tobacco smoking   Letter. Medical Journal of Australia, 2002; 77:686-7. Available from:  https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2002/177/11/chop-chop-tobacco-smoking

12. Lindorff KJ. Tobacco time for action: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tobacco Control Project final report. Canberra: National Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, 2002.

13. 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

14. 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. Aust N Z J Public Health, 2015. Available from:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1753-6405.12424

15. 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

16. 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

17. 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.

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

19. 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

20. 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. 

21. Attorney-General's Department and Commonwealth of Australia. Trade Practices Act 1974 (and Amendments). Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, 2007. Last update: Viewed 18 June 2007. Available from:  http://www.comlaw.gov.au/comlaw/management.nsf/lookupindexpagesbyid/IP200401339?OpenDocument.

22. 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