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Tobacco smoking is a leading risk factor for chronic disease and death, including many types of cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease. It is the major cause of cancer, accounting for about 20–30% of cancer cases in Australia (AIHW & AACR 2012).

Current use and trends

  • Among people aged 14 and older, daily smoking declined significantly between 2010 and 2013 (from 15.1% to 12.8%). Daily smoking rates have almost halved since 1991 (24.3%).
  • Figure 1: Tobacco smoking status, people aged 14 years or older, 1991–2013 (per cent)

    Smoking 1 - trends PNG  
  • People aged 40–49 were the age group most likely to smoke daily (16.2%).
  • People aged 18–49 were far less likely to smoke daily than they were 12 years ago, but over the same period, there was little change in daily smoking by people aged 60 or older.
  • Proportion of 12–17 year olds who had never smoked remained high in 2013 at 95%, and the proportion of 18–24 year olds who had never smoked increased significantly between 2010 and 2013 (from 72% to 77%).
  • Younger people are delaying the take up of smoking—the age at which 14–24-year-olds smoked their first full cigarette increased from 14.2 in 1995 to 15.9 years in 2013.
  • Smokers reduced the average number of cigarettes smoked per week; from 111 cigarettes in 2010 to 96 in 2013. Smokers aged 50–69 continued to smoke the largest number of cigarettes per week on average (about 120), nearly double the number for smokers in their 20s (about 75).
  • About 1 in 6 smokers had smoked unbranded tobacco in their lifetime although only 3.6% currently smoked it, declining from previous years.


  • Dependent children were far less likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke inside the home with only 3.7% of adults in these households with children reporting smoking inside the home in 2013, steadily declining from 31% in 1995.
  • Figure 2: Exposure to environmental smoke in the home, households with children aged 15 years and under, 1995–2013 (per cent)

    Smoking 2 - households PNG  

Attitudes and perceptions

  • Support for policies aimed at reducing harm caused by tobacco remained high in 2013 and stricter enforcement of the law and penalties for supplying to minors continued to receive the highest level of support with around 9 in 10 supporting these measures.
  • As smoking rates continue to decline, people are less likely to perceive tobacco as a drug that causes the most deaths or that tobacco is of most concern to the general community (both declined significantly in 2013).


Tobacco data from the 2013 NDSHS is available in the supplementary tables.

Tobacco smoking status data for males and females aged 14 years or older were added to Table 2 on 31 July 2014.