Young adults are defined here as people between the age of 18 and 39 years.
1.4.1 Latest estimates of prevalence of smoking among young adults
The 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey examined smoking prevalence among young adults,1 as shown in Table 1.4.1 by age group and sex.
Young adults: percentage of daily, regular and current smokers* 2019—by age group, sex and total population (%)
* Includes persons smoking any combination of cigarettes (factor-made and roll-your-own), pipes or cigars.
† Smoked more than 100 cigarettes (manufactured or roll-your own) or the equivalent amount of tobacco in their life but reports no longer smoking.
‡ Never smoked more than 100 cigarettes (manufactured or roll-your own) or the equivalent amount of tobacco.
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Data tables: National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 – 2. Tobacco smoking chapter, Supplementary data tables, Table 2.7. Canberra: AIHW, 2020. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey-2019/data and Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer analysis of National Drug Strategy Household Survey data.2
The Australian Bureau of Statistics also collects data on smoking status among Australians aged 15 years and over. In 2020–21, the prevalence of daily smoking among 18–24 year olds was 8.3%, and 10.6% were current smokers. Among 25–34 year olds, 10.6% were daily smokers and 12.5% were current smokers. The ABS notes however that due to the impact of COVID-19 on data collection and sample representativeness, this data should not be compared with prior survey years.3
1.4.2 Trends in smoking prevalence among young adults
Table 1.4.2 shows smoking prevalence data from the AIHW’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey for men and women in three age groups spanning young adulthood to early middle age, between 1995 and 2019—see also Figure 1.5.1.
Examining the seven survey years from 2001 to 2019, the prevalence of smoking has significantly declined over time for both sexes within all age groups, and, over the passage of time, smoking rates have also converged across the age groups—see Table 1.4.2.
Among 25–29 and 35–39 year-olds, the proportion of regular smokers was significantly lower in 2019 compared to that observed in 2001–2016 (controlling for sex). Among 18–24 year-olds, there was no change between 2016 and 2019; however, prevalence was significantly lower in 2019 than 2001–2013.
Young adults: percentage of regular* smokers† from 2001 to 2019 — by age group and sex and total population ‡ (%)
* Includes those reporting that they smoke ‘daily’ or ‘at least weekly’.
†Includes persons smoking any combination of cigarettes, pipes or cigars.
‡ All data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition.
Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer analysis of National Drug Strategy Household Survey data from 2001 to 20192, 3
It can be seen from Figure 1.5.1 (in the following section) that smoking prevalence among youngest adults (18–24 years) has changed over time in relation to prevalence among middle aged and older adults (those older than 40 years). In all survey years from 2001 to 2019, those aged 60+ have been significantly less likely to be smokers than 18–24-year-olds. In the earlier survey years, people aged 40–59 were also significantly less likely to smoke than 18–24-year-olds, but this pattern has switched over time. In 2016 and 2019, 40–59-year-olds were significantly more likely to smoke than 18–24-year-olds (controlling for gender). Smoking patterns among the Australian population aged 40 and over are discussed further in Section 1.5 (see Table 1.5.1 and Figure 1.5.1).
Relevant news and research
For recent news items and research on this topic, click here. (Last updated July 2021)
1. 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.
2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2019. ADA Dataverse, 2021. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.26193/WRHDUL.
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Pandemic insights into Australian smokers, 2020-21. 2021. Available from: https://www.abs.gov.au/articles/pandemic-insights-australian-smokers-2020-21.
4. Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2016 [computer file]. Canberra: Australian Data Archive, The Australian National University; 2017.