Aussie smoking and drinking image fading

The image that Australians are high consumers of tobacco and alcohol is fading, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. On the international league table, Australia dropped from 10th place in 1986 to 17th in 1996 for per capita consumption of cigarettes. This equates to every Australian smoking on average 700 fewer cigarettes each a year. Australia ranked 20th for per capita consumption of alcohol in 1995-96.

Statistics on Drug Use in Australia shows that on average each adult Australian spent $337 on tobacco in 1996-97, and smoked 2,017 cigarettes a year. This compares with top-ranked Greece on 3,474 cigarettes, followed by Japan on 3,193.

Per capita expenditure for 1995-96 on alcohol was $717. Australia ranked 9th on per capita consumption of beer (95 litres per person), compared with the Czech Republic on top at 160 litres per person. On wine and spirits consumption, Australia ranked 17th (18 litres per person) and 30th (1 litre per person) respectively. This equates to an estimated per capita alcohol consumption of 7.5 litres of pure alcohol per person. Luxembourg ranked first with 11.8 litres of pure alcohol per person, followed by Portugal with 11.2 litres per person.

Around 22% of Australians aged 14 years or more smoked on a daily basis in 1998, slightly lower than the rates over the rest of the decade. Daily smoking was most prevalent in the 20-29 year age group for both men and women in 1998.

Daily consumption of alcohol was usual for about 10% of Australians aged 14 years and over in 1998, a result unchanged from the previous 7 years. Daily drinking was most common among men and women aged 60 years or more.

According to co-author of the report, Mark Cooper-Stanbury, Australians continue to disapprove of both the regular use and legalisation of illicit drugs, although approximately one quarter think regular use of marijuana is acceptable.

'And 80% of Australians support increased penalties for the supply of hard illicit drugs, with 60% also supporting increased penalties for the supply of marijuana,' Mr Cooper-Stanbury said. 'Marijuana remained the most widely used illicit drug in Australia in 1998, with 44% of males and 35% of females reporting use at some time in their lives.'

Other findings in Statistics on Drug Use in Australia include:

  • Almost 23,000 Australian deaths in 1997 were attributable to drug use. Of these, 18,224 deaths were tobacco-related, 3,668 were alcohol-related and 832 deaths were related to illicit drug use.
  • Most deaths in all age groups (except those aged 15-34 years) were attributable to tobacco. For those aged 15-34 years, 9% of deaths were tobacco-related, with 50% due to alcohol misuse and 42% to illicit drug use.

28 April 2000

Further information: Mark Cooper-Stanbury, AIHW, tel. 02 6289 7027, or Karl Higgins, Department of Health and Aged Care, tel. 02 6289 8416.
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.