Smoking still on the way down in Australia


Data on smoking released today by the ABS shows some encouraging trends.

  • Since 1995, the proportion of adults who are daily smokers has decreased from 23.8% to 13.8% in 2017-18.
  • 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.
  • In 2017-18, 1.9% of 15-17-year-olds were daily smokers. A further 0.9% smoked less often than daily, while 1.7% were ex-smokers and 95.3% reported that they had never smoked.

However, there was only a small decline in the prevalence of adults who are daily smokers from 2014-15 to 2017-18 – from 14.5% to 13.8%.

Why has the rate of decline between 2014-15 and 2017-18 been slower than in previous years?

“Despite collecting more than 12 billion dollars a year in tobacco tax, the Federal Government has inexplicably failed to fund national TV-led public education campaigns since 2012,” said Mr Maurice Swanson, Executive Director Australian Council on Smoking and Health.

“TV-led public education campaigns are the missing ingredient in Australia’s comprehensive approach to reduce smoking along with tax increases, prohibition of tobacco marketing and promotion, expansion of smoke-free public places and workplaces, and plain packaging of tobacco products.

“We know from comprehensive evaluation of previous campaigns that they are a crucial measure in reducing smoking, reaching adults, children and disadvantaged groups. We also know that when media campaigns are missing, encouraging trends can be reduced or even reversed,” said Mr Swanson.

During this period, the tobacco industry has aggressively undermined tax increases by introducing smaller pouches of tobacco and smaller cheaper cigarette packs.

The tobacco industry has also undermined plain packaging with promotional gimmicks such as introducing flavour capsules in the filter of cigarettes, designed to make cigarette smoke easier to inhale, and increasing the likelihood of an entrenched addiction for younger people.

“Australia has been a world leader in reducing smoking and in running strong, hard-hitting national media campaigns. We need a commitment from all sides to restore funding for the campaigns, thus reducing smoking further and saving thousands of lives,” said Mr Swanson.

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For more information please contact:

Maurice Swanson, Executive Director, ACOSH