Australians consume less alcohol, tobacco, more marijuana

Australians are consuming less alcohol and smoking fewer cigarettes than they were 10 years ago, but there has been an increase in the use of marijuana, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Statistics on Drug Use in Australia 2000 shows that on the international stage, for annual per capita consumption of cigarettes, Australia dropped from 10th place in 1986 to 17th in 1996. This equates to a drop from 2,710 to 2,017 cigarettes annually for each Australian aged 15 years and over.

Australia ranked 19th for per capita consumption of alcohol in 1998 at 7.6 litres of pure alcohol per person per year. This was some way behind first-ranked Luxembourg, with 13.3 litres of pure alcohol per person, followed by Portugal with 11.2 litres per person.

Australia ranked 9th on per capita consumption of beer, however, at 95 litres per person, compared with the Czech Republic on top at 162 litres per person.

The proportion of Australians ever consuming marijuana (39%) was similar to the USA (35%) and Denmark (31%), with the Australian rate having risen from 33% in 1991.

Marijuana use in the past 12 months was considerably higher in Australia (18%) than in England and the USA (9%), Spain (8%), Canada (7%) and the Netherlands (5%).

Nearly half of all Australians aged 14 years and over have used illicit substances at least once in their lives, while 23% report having used an illicit drug in the last year.

On average each adult Australian spent $559 on tobacco in 1998-99, with total government revenue being in excess of $8.2 billion.

Per capita expenditure on alcohol on 1998-99 was $1,062.

According to co-author of the report, Megge Miller, most Australians do not approve of either the regular use or the legalisation of illicit drugs, although approximately one-quarter think regular use of marijuana is acceptable.

Other findings in Statistics on Drug Use in Australia 2000 include:

  • The number of hospital admissions attributable to drug use increased from 179,000 in 1995-96 to 200,000 in 1997-98. Smoking was the leading cause of drug-related hospital admissions (142, 525).
  • More than 19,000 deaths in 1998-99 were attributable to tobacco and just over 1,000 deaths were related to illicit drug use.
  • One-third of Australian smokers unsuccessfully tried to quit smoking in 1998.


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