4125.0 - Gender Indicators, Australia, Jan 2013  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/01/2013   
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CURRENT SMOKERS, Age standardised (a), 18 years and over




(a) Proportions have been age standardised to the 2001 Australian population to account for differences in the age structure of the population over time.

Source: ABS data available on request, Australian Health Survey, 2011-12;
ABS data available on request, National Health Survey.



Between 2001 and 2011-12, overall rates of smoking have decreased for both males and females. The age standardised rate of current smokers for males aged 18 years and over fell from 27% in 2001 to 20% in 2011-12, and declined from 21% in 2001 to 16% for females.

Graph: Current smokers, males and females aged 18 years and over, 2001, 2004-5, 2007-8 and 2011-12

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 2011-12, the Australian Health Survey reported that approximately 8 million Australian adults aged 18 years and over had smoked at some time in their lives. (Endnote 3) 3.1 million were current smokers, with the vast majority (90%) 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's tobacco control strategies, such as mass media public education campaigns, high tobacco taxes, advertising bans and smoke-free environment legislation, have helped with the steady decline in smoking rates over recent decades. (Endnote 6) Between 1991 and 2010, the proportion of daily smokers aged 14 years and over decreased by almost 40% (Endnote 7)

By age

Rates of smoking differ between males and females across age groups. In 2011-12, 5% of males and 9% of females aged 15-17 years were current smokers. After 18 years, the legal age for purchasing tobacco products in Australia, the rate rose significantly for both men and women - reaching 22% for men and 17% for women aged 18-24 in 2011-12. Rates remained steady for men up until around age 55, and for women up until around age 65 years, whereupon rates decline. 8% of men and 7% of women aged 65 years and over were current smokers in 2011-12.

Between 2001 and 2011-12, the largest decreases in smoking rates occurred for males and females aged between 18 and 44 years. There was little change in smoking rates for men and women aged 45-54 years, and women aged over 55 years over this period. However for men, there were significant declines over this period in the 55-64 and 65 years and over age groups (down 5% and 3% respectively).

Between 2007-08 and 2011-12, the rate of smoking among males aged 15-17 decreased from 9% to 5%, while the rate for females increased from 5% to 9%.

Graph: Current smokers by age, 2001 and 2011-12

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.

Graph: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander current smokers, males and females aged 18 years and over, 2002 and 2008

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%.

Graph: Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander current smokers, males and females by age, 2002 and 2008

An update with data from the 2012 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey is expected to be available in early 2014.


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, 2012, Australian Health Survey: First Results 2011-2012, (cat. no. 4364.0.55.001), 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. Cancer Council, NSW, Statistics on Smoking in Australia, last viewed 1 September 2014, <www.cancercouncil.com.au>.
7. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2011, 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report, (cat. no. PHE 145), AIHW, Canberra, <www.aihw.gov.au>


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