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Smoking

Contains key statistics and information about smoking trends and its prevalence within Australia, including state and territory findings

Reference period
2017 - 2018
Released
12/12/2018
Next release Unknown
First release

Key statistics

  • Over the last 20 years, the rate of adult daily smokers has decreased from 24% to 14%. Over recent years however, the daily smoking rate remained relatively similar (15% in 2014-15).
  • Young people aged 18-24 are more likely to have never smoked than a decade ago (75% compared to 64%).
  • Current daily smokers on average smoke 12.3 cigarettes per day.

Smoking

Tobacco smoking is one of the largest preventable causes of death and disease in Australia with smoking estimated to kill almost 19,000 Australians a year and responsible for 9.0% of the total burden of disease in Australia in 2011[1]. It is associated with an increased risk of a wide range of health conditions, including; heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, renal disease, eye disease and respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis. 

There have been a range of policies implemented since 1973 aimed at reducing smoking rates through measures such as taxation on tobacco products, restrictions on advertising, and the prohibition of smoking in certain locations[2].

Key findings

  • Since 1995, the proportion of adults who are daily smokers has decreased from 23.8% to 13.8% in 2017-18. Over recent years however, the daily smoking rate remained relatively similar (14.5% in 2014-15).
  • The proportion of adults who have never smoked has increased from 49.4% in 2007-08 to 52.6% in 2014-15 and 55.7% in 2017-18.
  • Three in four (75.3%) young adults (18-24 year olds) have never smoked, up from 69.5% in 2014-15.
  • Men continued to be more likely than women to smoke daily (16.5% compared to 11.1%).
  • Rates for both men and women have declined since 1995 when 27.3% of men and 20.3% of women smoked daily. However, these rates have remained similar since 2014-15 (16.9% for men and 12.1% for women).
  • On average, current daily smokers smoked 12.3 cigarettes per day, which is just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes). On average, men smoked more than women (13.0 cigarettes compared with 11.4).
  • Northern Territory had the highest rate of daily smokers (around one in five; 19.6%) compared with one in ten (10.6%) in Australian Capital Territory.

Definitions

Smoker status refers to the frequency of smoking of tobacco, including manufactured (packet) cigarettes, roll-your-own cigarettes, cigars and pipes, but excluding chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes (and similar) and smoking of non-tobacco products. Respondents were asked to describe smoking status at the time of interview, categorised as: 

  • Current daily smoker - a respondent who reported at the time of interview that they regularly smoked one or more cigarettes, cigars or pipes per day;
  • Current smoker - Other - a respondent who reported at the time of interview that they smoked cigarettes, cigars or pipes, less frequently than daily;
  • Ex-smoker - a respondent who reported that they did not currently smoke, but had regularly smoked daily, or had smoked at least 100 cigarettes, or smoked pipes, cigars, etc at least 20 times in their lifetime; and
  • Never smoked - a respondent who reported they had never regularly smoked daily, and had smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and had smoked pipes, cigars, etc less than 20 times.
     

In 2017-18, the National Health Survey (NHS) collected data for the first time on the usual number of days smoked cigarettes in a week, usual number of cigarettes smoked per day and usual number of cigarettes smoked per week.

How many adults smoked in 2017-18?

In 2017-18, just under one in seven (13.8%) or 2.6 million adults were daily smokers, while a further 1.4% of people also reported smoking, they did so on a less than daily basis.

Since 1995, the proportion of adults who are daily smokers has decreased from 23.8% to 13.8% in 2017-18. Over recent years however, the daily smoking rate remained relatively similar (14.5% in 2014-15). 

Despite this, the proportion of adults who have never smoked has increased from 49.4% in 2007-08 to 52.6% in 2014-15 and 55.7% in 2017-18.

In 2017-18, young adults aged 18-24 years were more likely to have never smoked than any other age group with more than two thirds of men (69.6%) and four in five women (81.5%) in this age group reporting they have never smoked. These proportions have increased from 64.0% and 64.9% respectively since 2007-08.

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Men continued to be more likely than women to smoke daily (16.5% compared to 11.1%). Rates for both men and women have declined since 1995 when 27.3% of men and 20.3% of women smoked daily. However, these rates have remained similar since 2014-15 (16.9% for men and 12.1% for women). 

For men aged 18-24 years in 2017-18, around one in six (17.5%) smoked daily; this proportion remained relatively constant until age 55-64 years where the prevalence fell to 16.5%, before eventually dropping to 5.1% at age 75 years and over. For women, one in ten (10.4%) 18-24 year olds smoked daily increasing to 14.7% for 45-54 year olds, before falling to 7.5% for 65-74 year olds and 3.7% for women 75 years and over. 

Since 1995, smoking rates have declined across all age groups, with the younger age groups (18-34 year olds) experiencing the largest falls. In 1995, one third (33.5%) of men and over a quarter (28.1%) of women aged 18-34 years smoked daily, declining to 18.4% and 10.5% respectively in 2017-18.

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Proportion of current daily smokers 1995 to 2014-15

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How many cigarettes do adults smoke?

On average, current daily smokers smoked 12.3 cigarettes per day, which is just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes). On average, men smoked more than women (13.0 cigarettes compared with 11.4). Just over one in three (37.2%) people smoked less than 10 cigarettes per day, while almost a quarter (23.5%) smoked 20 or more cigarettes per day (considered a pack-a-day smoker). 

Men who smoked daily were more likely to smoke 20 or more cigarettes per day than women (27.6% compared with 18.1%). The number of cigarettes smoked per day increased with age, with 30.0% of adult smokers over the age of 45 smoking over 20 cigarettes per day compared with 17.8% of adults between the ages of 18-44 years.

How many young people were smoking?

In 2017-18, 1.9% of 15-17 years olds were daily smokers. A further 0.7% smoked less often than daily, while 1.7% were ex-smokers and 95.3% reported that they had never smoked. 

Some under-reporting of these young persons identifying as current smokers may have occurred due to social pressures, particularly in cases where other household members were present at the interview.

Which Australians were more likely to smoke?

Rates of smoking were higher in areas of most disadvantage with just over one fifth (21.7%) of adults living in areas of most disadvantage (first quintile) being current daily smokers, compared with 6.8% in the least disadvantaged areas (fifth quintile). This pattern has remained constant over the past decade.

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(a) A lower Index of Disadvantage quintile (e.g. the first quintile) indicates relatively greater disadvantage and a lack of advantage in general. A higher Index of Disadvantage (e.g. the fifth quintile) indicates a relative lack of disadvantage and greater advantage in general. See Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage in the Glossary. 

How did smoking prevalence vary by state and territory?

As in previous surveys, the Northern Territory had the highest rate of daily smokers (around one in five; 19.6%) compared with one in ten (10.6%) in Australian Capital Territory. 

Since 1995, Northern Territory has experienced the largest fall in daily smoking prevalence across the states and territories, falling from 35.6% to 19.6%. All other states and territories have experienced similar declines in the proportion of daily smokers since 1995. Whilst there have been falls in smoking prevalence across all states and territories over the past two decades, the falls have been steady over recent times. Since 2014-15, Western Australia was the only state to observe a decline in current daily smokers from 14.3% to 11.8% in 2017-18.

In 2017-18, the Australian Capital Territory had the largest proportion of people who had never smoked (59.7%) in comparison to just under half (49.4%) in Northern Territory.

State and territory findings

How did smoking prevalence vary by state and territory?

As in previous surveys, the Northern Territory had the highest rate of daily smokers (around one in five; 19.6%) compared with one in ten (10.6%) in Australian Capital Territory. 

Since 1995, Northern Territory has experienced the largest fall in daily smoking prevalence across the states and territories, falling from 35.6% to 19.6%. All other states and territories have experienced similar declines in the proportion of daily smokers since 1995. Whilst there have been falls in smoking prevalence across all states and territories over the past two decades, the falls have been steady over recent times. Since 2014-15, Western Australia was the only state to observe a decline in current daily smokers from 14.3% to 11.8% in 2017-18.

In 2017-18, the Australian Capital Territory had the largest proportion of people who had never smoked (59.7%) in comparison to just under half (49.4%) in Northern Territory.

Adults (18 years and over)

  • In 2017-18, just under one in seven (13.8%) Australian adults were daily smokers.
  • The Northern Territory had the highest rate of daily smokers (19.6%) compared with the lowest rate (10.6%) in the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian Capital Territory also had the largest proportion of people who have never smoked (59.7%) in comparison with just under half (49.4%) in the Northern Territory.
  • Proportionally, more men than women were daily smokers (16.5% and 11.1%, respectively) across all state and territories.
  • Daily smokers men
    • Highest: Northern Territory (21.9%)
    • Lowest: Australian Capital Territory (12.7%)
       
  • Daily smokers women
    • Highest: Northern Territory (17.3%)
    • Lowest: Australian Capital Territory (8.8%)
       
  • Whilst all States and Territories have observed a decline in daily smokers since 1995, the rates have remained similar since 2014-15, with the exception of Western Australia which declined from 14.3% to 11.8%.
  • New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia have experienced increases in the proportion of adults who have never smoked since 2014-15.
  • On average, Australian adults who were daily smokers smoked 12.3 cigarettes per day, which is just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes). On average, men smoked more than women (13.0 cigarettes compared with 11.4).
  • Average cigarette consumption men
    • Highest: Tasmania (14.5)
    • Lowest: Australian Capital Territory (11.1)
       
  • Average cigarette consumption women
    • Highest: Australian Capital Territory (12.4)
    • Lowest: South Australia (10.8) and Tasmania (11.0)
       

New South Wales

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  • Around one in seven (13.9%) adults were daily smokers in 2017-18. Whilst this rate has declined since 1995 (23.4%), the rate has remained similar since 2011-12 (14.3%). 
  • The proportion of adults who have never smoked has increased from 52.0% in 2014-15 to 56.1% in 2017-18. 
  • Young adults aged 18-24 years were more likely to have never smoked than any other adults in 2017-18 (73.0%), which was an increase from 2014-15 (64.5%). In 2017-18, two thirds of men (68.5%) and three quarters of women (78.4%) in this age group have never smoked. 
  • Men continued to be more likely than women to smoke daily in 2017-18 (17.0% compared with 10.9%). 
  • For men aged 18-24 years in 2017-18, almost one in five (19.0%) smoked daily; this proportion remained relatively constant until age 65-74 years where the prevalence fell to 8.7% and 5.8% at age 75 years and over. 
  • For women, around one in eight (12.0%) 18-24 year olds smoked daily; this proportion remained relatively constant until age 65-74 years where the prevalence fell to 7.3%, before falling to 3.3% for women aged 75 years and over. 
  • Rates of smoking were higher in areas of most disadvantage with more than one fifth (22.4%) of adults living in areas of most disadvantage (first quintile) being daily smokers, compared with 6.3% in the least disadvantaged areas (fifth quintile). 
  • Rates of smoking were lower in Major Cities (12.6%) compared with Inner Regional (16.9%) and Outer Regional and Remote areas (22.1%). 
  • On average, daily smokers smoked 12.7 cigarettes per day, which is just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes). On average, men smoked more than women (13.2 cigarettes per day compared with 11.8).

     

Victoria

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  • Almost one in seven (13.5%) adults were daily smokers in 2017-18, which was similar to the rate observed in 2014-15 (13.7%). However, this rate has declined since 2011-12 (16.3%). 
  • In 2017-18, more than half of adults (57.4%) have never smoked, which has increased from 54.6% in 2014-15. Since 2014-15, the increase in adults who have never smoked was driven by adults aged 25-34 years where the proportion increased from 58.5% to 65.0% and adults aged 35-44 years from 51.5% to 57.0%. 
  • Men continued to be more likely than women to smoke daily (16.5% compared with 10.8%). Whilst the rates for men and women who smoke daily were similar to 2014-15 (16.0% and 11.8% respectively), there has been a decline since 2011-12 (19.2% and 13.5% respectively). 
  • Rates of daily smoking were higher in areas of most disadvantage (first quintile) (20.5%), compared with 7.7% in the least disadvantaged areas (fifth quintile). 
  • On average, current daily smokers smoked 11.6 cigarettes per day, which is just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes). Men and women smoked on average 11.8 and 11.2 cigarettes per day respectively. 
     

Victoria had a higher rate of adults who have never smoked compared with Australia (57.4% compared with 55.7%).

Queensland

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  • Around one in seven (14.9%) adults were daily smokers. This rate has decreased since 2011-12 (17.8%), although the rate has remained similar since 2014-15 (16.1%). 
  • However, the proportion of adults who have never smoked has increased since 2014-2015 from 50.5% to 53.6%. This was driven by an increase in young adults aged 18-24 years where over three quarters (75.7%) have never smoked compared with 62.1% in 2014-15. 
  • Men were more likely than women to smoke daily (17.5% compared with 12.3%) and women were more likely to have never smoked (61.0% compared with 45.9%). 
  • Adults living in areas of most disadvantage (first quintile) were more likely to smoke daily (22.4%) than those in areas of less disadvantage (fifth quintile) (5.7%). 
  • Rates of daily smoking were lower in Major Cities (13.8%) compared with Outer Regional and Remote areas (18.4%). 
  • On average, current daily smokers smoked 12.8 cigarettes per day, which is just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes). On average, men smoked more than women (14.0 cigarettes per day compared with 11.2). 
     

Queensland had a lower rate of adults who have never smoked compared with Australia (53.6% compared with 55.7%).

South Australia

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  • Around one in eight (12.9%) adults were daily smokers in 2017-18. Whilst this rate has declined since 1995 (22.8%), the rate has remained similar since 2014-15 (13.1%). 
  • The proportion of adults who have never smoked has increased from just under half in 2011-12 to just over half in 2017-18 (49.5% and 54.4% respectively). 
  • Men continued to be more likely than women to smoke daily in 2017-18 (15.6% compared with 10.3%). 
  • For men aged 18-24 years in 2017-18, 16.5% smoked daily; this proportion remained relatively constant until age 65-74 years where the prevalence fell to 9.7%. 
  • Of women aged 18-24 years, 6.1% smoked daily, this increased to 16.2% for women aged 45-54 years before falling to 8.8% for those aged 65-74 years and then 2.5% for women 75 years and over. 
  • Rates of smoking were higher in areas of most disadvantage (first quintile) with more than one fifth (18.4%) of adults being daily smokers, compared with 6.8% in the least disadvantaged areas (fifth quintile). 
  • Rates of smoking were lower in Major Cities (12.0%) compared with Outer Regional and Remote areas (16.7%). 
  • On average, current daily smokers smoked 12.1 cigarettes per day, which is just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes). On average, men smoked more than women (13.1 cigarettes compared with 10.8).
     

Western Australia

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  • More than one in eight (11.8%) adults were daily smokers. The rate has almost halved since 1995 (23.0%). 
  • In 2017-18, Western Australia was the only state to experience a decrease in the rate of daily smokers since 2014-15 (14.3%). This was due to a decrease in the rates of men who smoked daily from 17.0% in 2014-15 to 13.6% in 2017-18. 
  • Despite this, men continued to be more likely to smoke daily than women (13.6% compared with 10.1%). 
  • More than half of adults (56.3%) have never smoked in 2017-18 which was similar to the rate observed in 2014-15 (53.4%). Young adults aged 18-24 years were more likely to have never smoked (76.7%) than other adults. 
  • Rates of smoking were higher in areas of most disadvantage, with more than one fifth (22.4%) of adults living in areas of most disadvantage (first quintile) being daily smokers, compared with 6.6% of adults living in areas of least disadvantage (fifth quintile). 
  • Rates of smoking were lower in Major Cities (10.6%) compared with Inner Regional (15.1%) and Outer Regional and Remote areas (18.8%). 
  • On average, daily smokers smoked 12.2 cigarettes per day, which is just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes). On average, men and women smoked a similar amount (12.5 cigarettes per day compared with 11.7). 
     

Western Australia had a lower rate of adult daily smokers compared with Australia (11.8% compared with 13.8%).

Tasmania

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  • One in six (16.4%) adults were daily smokers. This rate has remained similar to 2014-15 (17.9%), but is lower than the rate observed in 2011-12 (20.6%). 
  • Men were more likely than women to smoke daily (17.5% compared with 15.2%). 
  • Just under half of adults (48.9%) have never smoked. Women were more likely to have never smoked than men (54.7% compared with 43.1%). 
  • Young adults aged 18-24 years were more likely to have never smoked (68.9%) than other adults in 2017-18, which was an increase since 2014-15 (55.5%). In 2017-18, two thirds of men (66.1%) and almost three quarters of women (72.1%) in this age group have never smoked. 
  • Adults living in areas of most disadvantage (first quintile) were more likely to smoke daily (24.2%) compared with adults living in areas of least disadvantage where daily smoking rates were 5.7% (fifth quintile). 
  • On average, daily smokers smoked 12.9 cigarettes per day, which is just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes). Men and women smoked on average 14.5 and 11.0 cigarettes per day respectively. 
     

Tasmania had a higher rate of adults who were daily smokers compared with Australia (16.4% compared with 13.8%) and a lower rate for those who have never smoked (48.9% compared with 55.7%).

Northern Territory

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(a) Data for 2001 and 2004-05 not included for Northern Territory due to high margin of error.

  • Almost one fifth (19.6%) of adults were daily smokers. Whilst this rate has almost halved since 1995 (35.6%), it has remained similar since 2014-15 (20.9%). 
  • Just under half of adults (49.4%) have never smoked. This proportion has remained relatively stable since 2014-15 (47.3%) and 2011-12 (44.1%). 
  • Men continued to be more likely than women to smoke daily in 2017-18 (21.9% compared with 17.3%). 
  • Rates of smoking were twice as high in areas of most disadvantage with almost one third (31.7%) of adults living in areas of most disadvantage (first quintile) being daily smokers, compared with 15.2% in the least disadvantaged areas (fifth quintile). 
  • On average, daily smokers smoked 12.5 cigarettes per day, which is just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes). On average, men smoked more than women (13.3 cigarettes per day compared with 11.4). 
     

Northern Territory had higher rates of daily smokers compared with Australia (19.6% compared with 13.8%) and lower rates for those who had never smoked (49.4% compared with 55.7%).

Australian Capital Territory

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  • One in ten (10.6%) adults were daily smokers in 2017-18. This rate was similar to 2014-15 (12.4%). 
  • Men were more likely than women to be a daily smoker (12.7% compared with 8.8%). In particular, men aged 25-34 years were almost twice as likely as women in the same age group to be a daily smoker (14.0% compared with 7.4%). 
  • Around three in five adults (59.7%) have never smoked. Young adults aged 18-24 years were more likely to have never smoked (79.8%) than other adults. 
  • Adults with a highest educational attainment of Year 10 or below were over eight times more likely than those with a Postgraduate qualification to be a daily smoker (26.0% compared with 3.0%). 
  • Adults who were daily smokers on average smoked 11.7 cigarettes per day, which is just over half a pack (a pack is considered to be 20 cigarettes). 
     

Australian Capital Territory had a lower rate of daily smokers compared with Australia (10.6% compared with 13.8%), and a higher rate of adults who had never smoked (59.7% compared with 55.7%).

Data downloads

Table 1: Summary health characteristics, 2001 to 2017–18 - Australia

Table 2: Summary health characteristics, 2017–18 - states and territories

Table 5: Selected current long-term conditions by health risk factors and health status - Australia

Table 6: Health risk factors by population characteristics - Australia

Table 9: Smoking - Australia

Table 20: New South Wales

Table 21: Victoria

Table 22: Queensland

Table 23: South Australia

Table 24: Western Australia

Table 25: Tasmania

Table 26: Northern Territory

Table 27: Australian Capital Territory

Endnotes

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1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia's health 2018 https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/7c42913d-295f-4bc9-9c24-4e44eff4a04a/aihw-aus-221.pdf.aspx?inline=true; last accessed 04/10/2018 

2 Department of Health, Tobacco control timeline https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/tobacco-control-toc~timeline; last accessed 04/10/2018