4125.0 - Gender Indicators, Australia, Jul 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/07/2012   
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CURRENT SMOKERS, Age standardised (a), 18 years and over




(a) Age standardised in 5 year ranges to 75 years and over to Estimated Resident Population (ERP) as at 30 June 2001.

Source: ABS data available on request, National Health Survey.



Overall rates of smoking have been decreasing since 2001 and decreased at a faster rate among males than females between 2001 and 2007-08. The age standardised rate of current smokers for males aged 18 years and over fell from 27% in 2001 to 23% in 2007-08, while for females the rates declined from 21% in 2001 to 19% in 2007-08.

Smoking is recognised as the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. It is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, renal disease and eye disease. (Endnote 1) Tobacco contains the powerfully addictive stimulant nicotine, which can make smoking a regular and long-term habit that is not easy to quit. (Endnote 2)
In 2007-08, the NHS reported that 8 million Australian adults aged 18 years and over had smoked at some time in their lives. (Endnote 3) 3.3 million were current smokers, with the vast majority (91%) of these people smoking daily.

In recent years the negative effects of passive smoking have also received considerable attention, demonstrating that the risks to health of smoking affect more than just the smoker. Passive smoking increases the risk of heart disease, asthma, and some cancers. It may also increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and may predispose children to allergic sensitisation. (Endnote 4) During 2007-08, 3.5% of people who were not current smokers (aged 15 years and over) and 7.2% of children (aged under 15 years) lived in a household where a daily smoker was reported to have smoked indoors. These people may be exposed to environmental tobacco smoke and the associated health risks of tobacco consumption. (Endnote 5)

The Australian Government has invested heavily in anti-smoking campaigns, and has increased restrictions on smoking in public places such as workplaces, restaurants and pubs. (Endnote 6) In line with the increased awareness of the negative impacts of tobacco smoke, the proportion of people who smoke has declined steadily. Rates of smoking decreased by 24% from 1989-90, representing an average annual decline of 1.5% over the 18 year period to the 2007-08 NHS. (Endnote 5)

By age

Rates of smoking differ between males and females across the age groups. Of males aged 15-17 years, 9% were current smokers in 2007-08. The rate for males peaked at 33% for those aged 25-34 years, declining to 5% for males aged 75 years and over. The smoking rate for females aged 15-17 years was lower than that for males of the same age (5%). The prevalence of smoking by females was higher in the 18-24 year age group (22%), and remained at 22% for each of the 10 year age groups from 25-34 to 45-54 years. The prevalence was much lower among older women (9% for those aged 65-74 years and 5% for those aged 75 years and over). While smoking prevalence was higher for men than for women in all age groups except 55-64 years, the differences were statistically significant at the 95% confidence interval in the 15-17, 25-34 and 35-44 year age groups.
Between 2001 and 2007-08, the largest decrease in smoking rates for males occurred in the 18-24 year age group (down 11 percentage points). For females, the largest decrease was in the 25-34 year age group (down 6 percentage points). Over this period, smoking rates decreased for males across all age groups. The proportion of female smokers increased by 2 percentage points in both the 45-54 and 55-64 year age groups over this time, however the increases were not statistically significant.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

In 2008, 49% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males aged 18 years and over (age standardised) were current smokers. This was significantly higher than the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females of the same age who were current smokers (44%). However, the rate of smoking in both sexes had not changed significantly since 2002.

For both males and females, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were current smokers in both 2002 and 2008 was lowest in the 15-17 year age group. Over this period, current smoker rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males in the 15-17 year age group decreased from 33% to 21%.


1. Australian Medical Association 2005, 'Tobacco Smoking 2005'. last viewed 22 June 2010 <www.ama.com.au>.
2. Better Health Channel, 2007, Passive Smoking, viewed 27 November, 2009 <www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Passive_smoking>.
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009, National Health Survey: Summary of Results 2007-2008, cat. no. 4364.0, ABS, Canberra, <www.abs.gov.au>.
4. National Public Health Partnership 2000, National Response to Passive Smoking in Enclosed Places and Workplaces: A Background Paper, NPHP, Canberra <www.nphp.gov.au>.
5. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009, Australian Social Trends, Dec 2009, cat. no. 4102.0, ABS, Canberra, <www.abs.gov.au>.
6. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010, cat. no. 1370.0, ABS, Canberra, <www.abs.gov.au>.


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