Latest release

Smoking

Contains key statistics and information about smoking and its prevalence within Australia

Reference period
2020-21 financial year
Released
21/03/2022
Next release 17/06/2022

Key statistics

  • 61.2% of people aged 18 years and over have never smoked
  • 10.7% of people aged 18 years and over were current daily smokers
  • 9.3% of people aged 18 years and over have used an e-cigarette or vaping device at least once in their lives
  • 21.7% of people aged 18-24 years have used an e-cigarette or vaping device at least once

The National Health Survey 2020-21 was collected online during the COVID-19 pandemic and is a break in time series. Data should be used for point-in-time analysis only and can’t be compared to previous years. See Methodology for more information.

Smoking

Tobacco smoking is one of the largest preventable causes of death and disease in Australia. Smoking is estimated to kill almost 20,500 Australians a year (13% of all deaths) and was responsible for 8.6% of the total burden of disease in Australia in 2018[1]. It is associated with an increased risk of health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, kidney disease, eye disease and respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.

Smoker status definitions

Smoker status refers to the frequency of smoking of tobacco, including manufactured (packet) cigarettes, roll-your-own cigarettes, cigars and pipes. Respondents were categorised as: 

  • Current daily smoker – a respondent who regularly smoked one or more cigarettes, cigars or pipes per day
  • Current smoker - Other – a respondent who smoked cigarettes, cigars or pipes, less frequently than daily
  • Ex-smoker – a respondent who does not smoke currently, but previously smoked daily, or has smoked at least 100 cigarettes, or smoked pipes or cigars at least 20 times in their lifetime
  • Never smoked – a respondent who has never regularly smoked daily, and has smoked less than 100 cigarettes, or smoked less than 20 pipes or cigars in their lifetime.

Smoker status analysis excludes chewing tobacco and smoking of non-tobacco products. It also excludes e-cigarettes (and similar vaping devices) which are addressed later in this article.

Smoking rates

In 2020-21, one in ten people (10.7% or 2.1 million people) aged 18 years and over were current daily smokers, with men more likely than women to smoke daily (12.6% compared to 8.8%). One in twelve (8.3%) people aged 18-24 years smoked daily, and this increased with age until 55-64 years where the rate peaked at 13.7%.

Ex-smokers and never smoked

In 2020-21, more than one in four (27.2%) people aged 18 years and over were ex-smokers.

  • Most people (61.2%) aged 18 years and over have never smoked
  • Women were more likely than men to have never smoked (67.1% compared to 55.0%)
  • People aged 18-24 years were more likely to have never smoked (83.3%) than any other age group.

Young smokers

Most people aged 15-17 years (97.0%) said they had never smoked, while 1.4% reported being current daily smokers.

One in ten (10.2%) children aged 0-14 years and about one in seven (13.1%) young people aged 15-17 years lived with someone who smoked daily.

Characteristics of smokers

The ‘Pandemic insights into Australian smokers, 2020-21’ article provides further information on the characteristics of people by their smoker status.

In 2020-21, current daily smokers aged 18 years and over had higher rates of the following long-term health conditions compared to those who had never smoked:

  • One in three (32.0%) had a mental and behavioural condition compared to 17.8% who had never smoked
  • One in four (26.2%) had back problems compared to 16.2% who had never smoked
  • One in seven (14.8%) had asthma compared to 10.4% who had never smoked.

See Asthma for further information.

Cigarette consumption

  • Current daily smokers, on average, smoked 10.7 cigarettes per day or just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes).
  • People aged 65-74 years smoked more cigarettes per day (an average of 13.6 cigarettes per day) than any other age group
  • One in six (16.8%) current daily smokers smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day

The number of cigarettes smoked per day increased with age, with 24.2% of people aged 45 years and over smoking over 20 cigarettes per day compared to 8.9% of people aged 18-44 years.

E-cigarettes and vaping devices

An e-cigarette is a device that heats a liquid to produce vapours that users inhale. E-cigarette use is also commonly referred to as vaping[2]. Liquids used in e-cigarettes may contain nicotine and other toxic chemicals. There is concern that the regular use of e-cigarettes could lead to adverse health consequences[2][3].

E-cigarette and vaping use definitions

E-cigarette and vaping use refer to the frequency of using e-cigarette or vaping devices including devices that use non-nicotine products and nicotine products. Respondents were categorised as:

  • Currently uses an e-cigarette / vaping device daily – a respondent who regularly used an e-cigarette or vaping device each day
  • Currently uses an e-cigarette / vaping device other – a respondent who used an e-cigarette or vaping device weekly or less than weekly
  • Formerly used an e-cigarette / vaping device – a respondent who did not currently use an e-cigarette or vaping device, but had used a device in the last twelve months, or in their lifetime
  • Never used an e-cigarette / vaping device – a respondent who had never used an e-cigarette or vaping device in their life.

E-cigarettes or vaping use

Almost one in ten (9.3%) people aged 18 years and over had used an e-cigarette or vaping device at least once, while 2.2% reported currently using a device.

  • Men 18 years and over were more likely than women to have used an e-cigarette or vaping device at least once (11.3% compared to 7.5%)
  • Men were also more likely than women to currently use an e-cigarette or vaping device (2.9% compared to 1.6%).

In 2020-21, of people aged 18 years and over who currently smoke tobacco:

  • 8.9% currently use an e-cigarette or vaping device
  • 23.8% formerly used an e-cigarette or vaping device
  • 67.5% have never used an e-cigarette or vaping device.

Use of e-cigarettes or vaping devices in young people

  • E-cigarette or vaping use was more common in people aged 18-24 than any other age groups, with 4.8% reporting they currently use a device
  • People aged 18-44 years were twice as likely as people aged 45 years and over to currently use an e-cigarette or vaping device (3.2% compared to 1.5%).
  • Just over one in five (21.7%) people aged 18-24 years had used an e-cigarette or vaping device at least once
  • People aged 18-44 were three times more likely than people aged 45 years and over to have used an e-cigarette or vaping device at least once (14.7% compared to 4.3%)
  • Just under one in twelve (7.6%) people aged 15-17 years had used an e-cigarette or vaping device at least once.

Technical note

Under-reporting of smoking rates and e-cigarette or vaping use in young people may have occurred because responses were provided by an adult living in the same household (77.3% of people aged 15-17 years were reported on by another person in the household) or due to reluctance to report use in cases where other household members were present when completing the survey.

Data sources and collection information

Data on current smokers (including current daily smokers and total current smokers) comes from the ‘Smoker Status, Australia 2020-21’ dataset. This dataset combines current smoker status information from the National Health Survey (NHS) 2020-21, Survey of Income and Housing (SIH) 2020-21, General Social Survey (GSS) 2020, Time Use Survey (TUS) 2020-21, and the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing (NSMHW) 2020-21. For more information, see the Methodology section of ‘Pandemic Insights into Australian Smokers, 2020-21’. Where smoking rates are analysed by health conditions or risk factors, data are taken from the National Health Survey 2020-21.

Data on ex-smokers and people who have never smoked comes from the National Health Survey 2020-21 dataset only.

Data downloads

Data files

Footnotes

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘Australian Burden of Disease Study 2018: Interactive data on risk factor burden’, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/burden-of-disease/abds-2018-interactive-data-risk-factors/contents/tobacco-use; accessed 24/11/2021.
  2. Department of Health, ‘About e-cigarettes’, https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/smoking-and-tobacco/about-smoking-and-tobacco/about-e-cigarettes; accessed 14/02/2022.
  3. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, ‘E-cigarettes, smoking and health’, https://www.csiro.au/en/research/health-medical/diseases/health-impacts-of-electronic-cigarettes; accessed 6/03/2022.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4364.0.00.016. 

Media release

See National Health Survey 2020-21 Media release for more information.