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Smoking rates in Australia continue to drop, according to new results released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The key findings from the AIHW's 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, released online today, show that fewer Australians are smoking daily-the daily smoking rate dropped significantly between 2010 and 2013, from 15.1% to 12.8% among people 14 or older.

'This means the daily smoking rate has halved since 1991,' said AIHW spokesperson Geoff Neideck.

'Smokers have also reduced the average number of cigarettes they smoke per week-down from 111 cigarettes in 2010 to 96 cigarettes in 2013.'

And the results show younger people are delaying starting. The 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%).

The age at which 14 to 24-year-olds smoked their first full cigarette was almost 16, rising from 14.2 to 15.9 years of age between 1995 and 2013.

Younger people are also continuing to delay their first alcoholic drink. The age at which 14 to 24-year-olds first tried alcohol rose from 14.4 to 15.7 years of age between 1998 and 2013.

'Overall, fewer younger people aged 12 to 17 are drinking alcohol, with the proportion abstaining from alcohol rising from 64% to 72% between 2010 and 2013,' Mr Neideck said.

'And more good news is that compared to 2010, fewer people overall drank alcohol in quantities that exceeded the lifetime risk and single occasion risk guidelines in 2013.'

However, almost 5 million people in Australia aged 14 or older (26%) reported being a victim of an alcohol-related incident in 2013-a decline from 29% in 2010.

'We've also seen declines in the use of ecstasy (from 3.0% to 2.5%), heroin (from 0.2% to 0.1%) and GHB (from 0.1% to less than 0.1%) in 2013, but the misuse of pharmaceuticals is on the rise (from 4.2% in 2010 to 4.7% in 2013),' Mr Neideck said.

'While the use of meth/amphetamine remained at a similar level to 2010, there was a major shift in the main form of meth/amphetamine used. Use of powder dropped significantly while the use of ice (or crystal methamphetamine) more than doubled between 2010 and 2013.

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey is conducted every 2-3 years. The 2013 survey collected data from nearly 24,000 people across Australia from 31 July to 1 December 2013.

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, 17 July 2014

Further information: Mr Geoff Neideck, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1163, mob. 0439 878 933

Full web release: National Drug Strategy Household Survey: key findings