2.3 Self-reported measures of tobacco consumption

Last updated:  May 2024

Suggested citation: Greenhalgh, EM, Scollo, MM, & Bayly, M. 2.3 Self-reported measures of tobacco consumption. In Greenhalgh, EM, Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2024. 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 2019—by sex

Sources:

V White, personal communication, using data collected in triennial surveys conducted by Cancer Council Victoria and reported in Hill and Gray 1982 1 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 2003 7 and Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–2019 8-12 , 13, 14

* 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 from the 1990s onwards. Compared with 1980, reported average consumption in 2019 was about 40% lower in men and 33% lower in women. The decline in reported daily consumption between 2001 and 2019 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 daily smokers who are light smokers (fewer than 10 cigarettes per day), moderate smokers (10 to 19 cigarettes per day), and heavy smokers (20 or more cigarettes per day) both among smokers of factory-made cigarettes only (Figure 2.3.2) and among smokers of both roll-your-own (RYO) 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 2 Percentage of daily smokers who are light, moderate and heavy smokers, and mean self-reported cigarettes smoked per day ( factory made only), Australia, 2004 to 2019

Source:

Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2004–2019 9-12 13, 14

NDSHS data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition
Note: Consumption assessed using a different method in 2001 to that used in later years.

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 2004 to 2019

Source: Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–2019 8-14

NDSHS data weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year and may vary slightly from data presented in previous edition
Note: Consumption assessed using a different method in 2001 to that used in later years.

In the most recent period of 2016–2019, the proportion of daily smokers who are light smokers significantly increased among both exclusive smokers of factory-made cigarettes and smokers of both factory-made and RYO cigarettes (controlling for age and sex), and conversely, the proportions of heavy smokers significantly decreased. There were no significant changes in the proportions of moderate smokers among either group.

2.3.1.1 Self-reported consumption patterns by age

A pack-a-day smoker is defined as someone who smokes 20 or more cigarettes per day. In 2022–23, 35.2% of people aged 18 years or older who smoked daily smoked at least a pack each day, similar to 2019 (33.3%).

The proportion of pack-a-day smokers varies with age. Figure 2.3.4 shows the proportion of pack-a-day smokers among daily smokers by age group from 2010 to 2022–23. Fewer than one-in-five daily smokers under 25 years old were pack-a-day smokers, compared to 35% of 40–49 year olds. The proportion of pack-a-day smokers was highest among daily smokers aged 50 to 69 years old at approximately 46%.

Figure 2.3.4 Percentage of daily smokers who smoke 20+ cigarettes per day, Australia,2010 to 2022–23

* 2022–23 estimate for 18-24 years has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Data tables: National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2022–2023 – 2. Tobacco smoking (Table 2.7). Canberra: AIHW, 2024. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey/data

The reported number of factory-made cigarettes smoked per day by adult cigarette smokers in various age groups since 1980 is shown in Figure 2.3.5 and Table 2.3.1.

Figure 2.3.5 Self-reported cigarettes (factory made only) smoked per day, current* smokers in Australia aged 18+ years, 1980 to 2019—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 2003 7 and Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–2019 8-14

* 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 2019—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 2003 7 and Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, analysis of data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–2019 8-14

* 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. Table 2.3.2 shows the average daily consumption of both factory-made and roll your own cigarettes by age group and sex for people who currently smoke since 2001. In 2022-23, consumption was lowest among those under 30 years, and highest among those aged 50 years and older.

While consumption did not change within any group between 2019 and 2022–23, there have been substantial declines in average daily consumption since 2001 in those age 60 years and under. For those aged under 40 years, declines of between 29% to 40% were observed. The largest absolute reductions were seen among males aged 30 to 59 years, with average daily consumption reducing by 6.3 cigarettes from 2001 to 2022–23.

Table 2.3.2 shows the total average consumption of both factory-made and roll your own cigarettes by age group and sex.

Self-reported cigarettes (factory made and roll your own) smoked per day, current* smokers in Australia aged 18+ years, 2001 to 2022–23—by age group and sex

* Smoke daily, weekly, or less than weekly

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Data tables: National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2022–2023 – 2. Tobacco smoking (Table 2.8). Canberra: AIHW, 2024. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/national-drug-strategy-household-survey/data

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 approximately every three years since 1984. The prevalence of smoking among secondary school students is described in full in Chapter 1, Section 1.6.

Figure 2.3.6 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 2.3.6 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 2022-23

Note: Due to changes in sampling and data collection method, caution should be exercised when interpreting changes between 2017 and 2022-23.

Sources: V White, personal communication, using data from Hill, Willcox, Gardner and Houston; 16   Hill, White, Pain and Gardner 1990; 17 Hill, White, Williams and Gardner 1993; 18 Hill, White and Segan 1995; 19 Hill, White and Letcher 1999; 20 Hill, White and Effendi 2002; 21 and White and Hayman 2004 22 and  2006; 23 White and Smith 2009; 24 White and Bariola 2012; 25 White and Williams 2015; 26 Guerin and White 2018; 27 Scully, et al. 2024 28

Since the surveys began almost 40 years ago, smoking consumption has declined substantially among secondary students. Among 12- to 15-year-olds, the number of cigarettes smoked per week has declined by about 65% from 1984 to 2022-23, and for 16 and17-year-olds, the decline is even greater at about 79%. Much of this decline occurred in the years between 2017 and 2022-23: consumption declined between 1984 and 2017 by about 33% for 12- to 15-year-olds and 50% for 16- and 17-year-olds.

There was no real difference in cigarette consumption between the younger and older secondary student groups in 2022-23, whereas in previously years, 16- and 17-year-olds reported smoking a significantly greater number of cigarettes each week than 12- to 15-year-olds. 27

Figure 2.3.7 shows cigarette consumption over time among current smokers by age group and sex. The largest declines in consumption from 1984 to 2022-23 were among females: a 71% decline was observed among 12- to 15-year-old females and an 86% decline was observed among 16- and 17-year-old females. Substantial declines in consumption were also seen for male secondary school students over this period: 62% for 12- to 15-year-olds, and 68% for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Figure 2.3.7 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 2022-23

Note: Due to changes in sampling and data collection method, caution should be exercised when interpreting changes between 2017 and 2022-23.

Source: T Williams and V White, personal communication, using data from Hill, Willcox, Gardner and Houston; 16   Hill, White, Pain and Gardner 1990; 17 Hill, White, Williams and Gardner 1993; 18 Hill, White and Segan 1995; 19 Hill, White and Letcher 1999; 20 Hill, White and Effendi 2002; 21 White and Hayman 2004 22 and  2006; 23 White and Smith 2009; 24 White and Bariola 2012; 25 and White and Williams 2015; 26 Guerin and White 2018; 27 and Scully, et al. 2024 28

Among all students, male current smokers smoked significantly more cigarettes per week than female current smokers. Consumption in 2017 among 16–17 year old female current smokers was significantly lower than each of the previous survey years. 27

2.3.3 Self-reported consumption by socioeconomic status

Along with being more likely to take up and continue smoking (see Sections 9.1 and 9.2), people who are socioeconomically 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 socioeconomic group and year. Since 2001, there has been a significant decrease in consumption within each socioeconomic group (controlling for age and sex). For the most recent period of 2016 to 2019, however, there were no significant changes. Figure 2.3.8 shows these trends since 2001.

Figure 2.3.8 Daily consumption among regular* smokers in Australia aged 18+ years, 2001 to 2019 —by Socioeconomic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA)

* Smoked daily or weekly

Includes persons smoking factory-made cigarettes and/or roll-you-own

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 data from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys 2001–2019 8-14

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. 29

See Section 13.7.6 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. 


References for Section 2.3

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