4364.0.55.003 - Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/06/2013  First Issue
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Contents >> Health risk factors >> Tobacco smoking


Smoking is a significant risk factor for a range of chronic diseases. It is important to monitor rates of smoking in the population to identify high risk groups, and recognise patterns in smoking behaviour.

Persons 18 years and over

In 2011-12, there were 2.8 million Australians aged 18 years and over who smoked daily (16.1%).

Just over half (51.1%) of adults reported that they had never smoked, nearly one third (31.0%) were ex-smokers and the remaining 1.8% smoked, but less often than daily.

Rates of daily smoking have decreased consistently over the past decade, from 18.9% in 2007-08 and 22.4% in 2001. Decreases in smoking rates have occurred across all age groups, and particularly amongst people aged under 45 years.

Graph Image for Persons aged 18 years and over - Proportion who were current daily smokers, 2001, 2007-08 and 2011-12

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12

In 2011-12, men were more likely to smoke daily than women (18.3% compared with 14.1%). These rates have decreased since 2001, when 25.4% of men and 19.5% of women smoked daily.

Those who live in outer regional and remote areas of Australia had higher rates of daily smoking (22.4%) compared with those who lived in inner regional (18.4%) or major cities of Australia (14.7%). Further, while rates of daily smoking in remote areas of Australia have dropped over time (from 31.9% in 2001 to 24.8% in 2011-12), they are still significantly higher than the rates in major cities of Australia a decade ago (21.9%).

Rates of smoking increased as the level of disadvantage increased. People living in areas of most disadvantage were more likely to smoke daily compared with those living in areas of least disadvantage (23.0% compared with 9.9%). Males living in the most disadvantaged group had a particularly high rate of smoking (27.4%).

Graph Image for Persons aged 18 years and over - Proportion of daily smokers by sex and levels of disadvantage(a)

Footnote(s): (a) Based on the 2006 Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage. A lower Index of Disadvantage quintile (e.g. the first quintile) indicates an area with relatively greater disadvantage and a lack of advantage in general. A higher Index of Disadvantage (e.g. the fifth quintile) indicates an area with a relative lack of disadvantage and greater advantage in general. See Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage in the Glossary.

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12

However, when looking at remoteness and level of disadvantage together, the main driver appears to be levels of disadvantage. The rate of daily smoking for those living in the least disadvantaged areas of outer regional and remote Australia is 14.6%, which is below the national rate of 16.1%.

The Northern Territory had the highest rate of daily smokers (23.7%) followed by Tasmania (20.6%), while the Australian Capital Territory had the lowest rate (12.6%).

Persons 15-17 years

In 2011-12, smoking data was also collected for persons aged 15-17 years. Of people in this age group, 4.2% were daily smokers, 1.7% smoked less often than daily, 4.2% were ex-smokers, and 89.9% reported that they had never smoked.

Some under-reporting of persons identifying as current smokers may have occurred due to social pressures, particularly in cases where other household members were present at the interview. The extent to which under-reporting may have occurred is unknown. In the 2011-12 survey, interviewers were given the opportunity to indicate whether a parent was present at the time of the interview with respondents aged 15-17 years. Further analysis of the effect of this will be undertaken at a later date.

For more information see Table 2: Smoker status, Table 3: Current daily smokers by remoteness and Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage and Table 4: Smoker status by selected population characteristics.

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