4363.0.55.001 - Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/06/2013   
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Contents >> Health risk factors >> Tobacco smoking



This topic refers to the smoking of tobacco, including:

  • manufactured (packet) cigarettes
  • roll-your-own cigarettes
  • cigars
  • pipes.

This topic excludes:
  • chewing tobacco
  • smoking of non-tobacco products.

Respondents were asked to describe smoking status at the time of interview:
  • current smokers:
    • daily
    • weekly
    • other
  • ex-smokers
  • never smoked (those who had never smoked 100 cigarettes, nor pipes, cigars or other tobacco products at least 20 times, in their lifetime).


Information was collected for persons aged 15 years and over in the NHS and NNPAS.


Information about tobacco smoking was collected in both the NHS and the NNPAS surveys. Information on tobacco smoking was first published in the First Results publication based on the NHS only sample of approximately 16,400 people aged 15 years and over. Updated results on tobacco smoking for the larger combined, core sample of approximately 26,400 people aged 15 years and over was published in the Updated Results publication. For comparison of tobacco smoking with NHS only items, the NHS file should be used and similarly for comparison with NNPAS only items, the NNPAS file should be used. However, for the most accurate information for tobacco smoking alone or comparison with other items collected in the core, the core file should be used. For more information on the structure of the AHS, see the Structure of the Australian Health Survey page of this Users' Guide.

Respondents were asked whether they currently smoke. Respondents who answered yes were asked whether they smoked daily (the term 'regularly' is used in the questions and is defined as at least once a day). Those who did not smoke daily were asked whether they smoked at least once a week.

Respondents, who reported that they did not currently smoke daily, were asked whether they had:
  • ever smoked regularly (that is, at least once a day)
  • smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their life
  • smoked pipes, cigars or other tobacco products at least 20 times in their life (asked only if they had not identified smoking at least 100 cigarettes).

If a respondent did not currently smoke, had not previously smoked daily and had never smoked at least 100 cigarettes, nor smoked pipes, cigars or other tobacco products at least 20 times in their life, they were classified as persons who had never smoked.

NHS current daily and ex-daily smokers were asked the age they had started smoking daily. Ex-daily smokers were asked whether they had stopped smoking regularly in the last 12 months, and the age at which they stopped smoking regularly. Current smokers were asked whether their smoking had increased, decreased or stayed the same in the last 12 months.

NHS adult respondents in households, other than single person households, were asked whether anyone in the household smoked regularly, and if so, the number of people (excluding themselves).

All NHS adult respondents with at least one regular smoker in the household were asked whether anyone usually smoked inside the house.

Data items

The data items and related output categories for this topic are available in Excel spreadsheet format from the page Downloads of this product.

Please note that:
  • Although the items 'Numbers of daily smokers in household' and 'Whether any daily smokers smoked at home indoors' were collected from the adult respondent in NHS, these items are presented on the household level due to being household characteristics.
  • Respondents were asked whether they smoked or had ever smoked 'regularly, that is, at least once a day'. The term 'regular' is replaced by the term 'daily' in the data items.


Points to be considered in interpreting data for this topic include the following:
  • Some under-reporting of persons identifying as current smokers is expected to have occurred due to social pressures, particularly in cases where other household members were present at the interview. In the 2007-08 and 2011-12 survey, interviewers were given the opportunity to indicate whether a parent was present at the time of the interview for persons aged 15 to 17 years, in order to assist with analysis of some aspects of under-reporting.
  • While interviewers are provided with examples of inclusions and exclusions, it is possible that respondents may have included products that they shouldn't have, or vice versa.
  • The categories of smoker status, and the concepts on which they are based, align with those in the National Health Data Dictionary (NHDD).
  • 'Duration of smoking' is derived in the NHS from reported age commenced daily smoking to current age at the time of the survey (for current smokers), and from age commenced daily smoking to age last ceased daily smoking (for ex-regular smokers). The items are therefore subject to errors around the ages reported by respondents, and the derivation of 'duration' takes no account of periods (potentially long periods) when the respondent may have ceased smoking only to start again.
  • 'Whether levels of smoking had increased, decreased or stayed the same since 12 months ago' collected in the NHS is based on self-perception.
  • The NHS selected adult respondent may not have known the smoker status of all other members of the household if, for example, another member only smoked when at work, or children kept their smoking hidden from parents. As a result, some undercounting may have occurred in household level smoking. Estimates of the prevalence of smoking in the population should therefore be based on person level data rather than responses to the 'smokers in household' questions.

Comparability with 2007-08

Data for smoker status are considered directly comparable between the 2011-12 and 2007-08 surveys. Other details regarding regular smoking (such as age commenced) collected in 2011-12 NHS are also considered comparable to the 2007-08 NHS.

In previous NHS surveys, household smoking variables have been attached to the adult respondent’s record. Data is considered to be comparable, but care should be taken to ensure the data is weighted appropriately. Being a household variable, using the person weight in 2011-12 NHS will also include child respondents in the population. Comparisons with previous NHSs should either:
  • use household weights
  • merge historical data to the household level
  • restrict the population to persons 18 years and over.

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