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Smoking is the single most important preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia . Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, of which over 70 cause cancer. When tobacco smoke is inhaled, these chemicals enter the lungs and spread through the body via the lymphatic system .
Smoking is linked to various cancers, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and hip fractures. It is also linked to reproductive problems in women. The chemicals in tobacco also affect people exposed to the smoke, known as second-hand or passive smoking .
Tobacco smoking is the smoking of tobacco products, including packet cigarettes, roll-your-own cigarettes, cigars or pipes .
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2011–12 Australian Health Survey (AHS) collected information on tobacco smoking from respondents aged 15 and over. People were asked whether they had ever smoked, whether they were ex-smokers or had never smoked, and about the frequency of their smoking and the quantity and type of tobacco smoked .
Since daily smoking presents the greatest health risk, the results presented here relate to adults aged 18 and over who reported being daily smokers at the time of the survey.
Based on self-reported data from the 2011–12 AHS, nearly 1 in 6 people aged 18 and over (16%) smoke daily. Overall, a higher proportion of men (18%) smoke than women (14%).
The proportion of daily smokers is similar for people aged 18–54 (Figure 1). Among older people, daily smoking rates decrease with age and is at its lowest level at age 75 and over-4% for both men and women.
Source: ABS 2013. Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011–12. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.003. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics (see source data).
In 1989-90, 26% of persons aged 18 and over smoked daily, which fell to 22% in 2001 and 16% in 2011–12 (age-standardised; Figure 2). Australia's suite of tobacco control measures, which includes stronger smoke-free laws, tobacco price increases and greater exposure to mass media campaigns since 2004, have played a substantial role in reducing smoking prevalence among adults .
Note: Age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population.
Source: ABS 2013. Gender indicators, Australia, January 2013. ABS cat. no. 4125.0. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics; AIHW 2012. Risk factor trends: age patterns in key health risk factors over time. Cat. no. PHE 166. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (see source data).
The proportion of adults who smoke daily differs across geographic areas and socioeconomic groups (Figure 3). Adults in Outer regional and remote areas are 1.5 times as likely to be daily smokers as those in Major cities (23% compared with 15% respectively).
Adults living in the most disadvantaged areas are 2.6 times as likely to smoke daily as those living in the least disadvantaged areas (24% compared with 9%).
Note: Q1–Q5 refers to area-based quintiles classified according to Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas 2011 (SEIFA 2011), specifically the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage (IRSD).
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS Microdata: Australian Health Survey, Core Content—Risk Factors and Selected Health Conditions, 2011–12 (see source data).
Daily smoking rates in Australia are among the lowest in the world. In 2013 (or the nearest year), 13% of the population aged 15 and over in Australia smoked, compared to 20% in the United Kingdom, 15% in Canada and 14% in the United States. Australia's rate was well below the average across 34 OECD countries (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) (20%) .
Further details on tobacco smoking are available from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey. Conducted every three years, the survey provides information on alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use in Australia, as well as community attitudes to drug use.