Under-age smokers mostly buy cigarettes from retailers, says report

More than 4 in 5 smokers aged 14-17 years obtained their tobacco from shops and retail outlets according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Around a quarter of teenage smokers also said they 'paid cash' to obtain tobacco, but not from a retail outlet.

Most Australians, however, supported 'stricter enforcement of laws against supplying minors' as a measure to reduce the harm associated with tobacco.

The report, 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: Detailed Findings, builds on summary results published earlier this year.

It shows that more than 15% of teenagers aged 14-17 years smoked. Among this group, two-thirds said that all or most of their friends or acquaintances smoked.

Similarly, three-quarters of under-age drinkers said that all or most of their friends drank alcohol.

Across all age ranges about 1 in 12 Australians reported drinking at levels considered risky or high-risk for harm in both the short term and long term.

A third of Australians who were at risk of short- or long-term harm reduced the amount drunk per session, with health reasons being the main motivating factor.

In the last 12 months, three in 10 Australians had been verbally abused, physically abused or put in fear by someone affected by alcohol. People who had consumed alcohol in the past 12 months were more likely to have been victims of alcohol-related incidents than those who had not consumed alcohol.

Around 2 in 5 Australians aged 14 years and over had tried an illicit drug at some time in their life. The average age of first use of illicit substances was 17 years for inhalants (such as petrol and glue), 19 years for cannabis, and 21 years for heroin.

Cannabis was the most common illicit drug used in Australia, with 2.0 million people (12.9%) using in the past 12 months. Of these, 39% used at least once per week.

Other illicits such as hallucinogens, amphetamines and ecstasy were used in the last 12 months by 3% or less of the population, and heroin was used by around 0.2%.

19 December 2002

Further information (co-authors): Jacki Grau, AIHW, tel. 0408 417 340, or Nicola Tatham, AIHW, tel. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032.