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Daily smoking has dropped, but levels of risky alcohol use remain unchanged and illicit drug use has increased, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report, shows the proportion of people aged 14 years or older smoking tobacco daily has dropped to 15.1%, down from 16.6% in 2007.

‘This continues a downward trend in tobacco use which is encouraging as tobacco smoking is the single most preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia,’ said AIHW spokesperson Brent Diverty.

The largest falls in daily smoking were among people in their early twenties to mid-forties.

A positive finding for alcohol use was that more teenagers (12 to 17 year olds) abstained from alcohol (61.6%) than consumed alcohol in the previous 12 months (38.4%) and the proportion abstaining increased significantly from 2007 (54.5%).

Daily drinking among those aged 14 years and older also declined between 2007 (8.1%) and 2010 (7.2%).

‘While there is some good news for Australia in terms of alcohol consumption, around one in five people still drink at levels that puts their health at risk over their lifetime—over two standard drinks a day on average—and this proportion remains unchanged since 2007,’ Mr Diverty said.

There was also little change in the proportion of people drinking at least once a month at levels that put them at risk of injury (more than four standard drinks per session). Patterns of risky drinking did vary by age and sex.

Around 7% of recent drinkers, especially people aged less than 29, changed their drink preference in 2010, with a shift away from pre-mixed drinks, also known as ‘alcopops’.

In terms of attitudes to drugs, excessive alcohol use and tobacco smoking were nominated as the two most serious concerns to the community—and there were higher levels of support than previously for tobacco and alcohol harm reduction policies.

Recent illicit drug use rose in 2010, with people aged 14 or older who had used illicit drugs in the previous 12 months rising from 13.4% to 14.7% between 2007 and 2010.

‘There was an increase in the proportion of people who had used cannabis, pharmaceuticals for non-medical purposes, cocaine and hallucinogens,’ Mr Diverty said.

‘For the first time since 1995, ecstasy use declined between 2007 and 2010 from 3.5% to 3.0%.’

Heroin continues to be the drug most associated with ‘a drug problem’, followed by cannabis. But there was also a small rise in community tolerance of regular cannabis use.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 27 July 2011

Further information: Mr Damien Parry, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5181, mob. 0418 271 395

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Full report: 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report