Aussie smoking and drinking image fading

The image that Australians are high consumers of tobacco and alcohol is fading. Australia has the third lowest rate of daily smoking reported by the OECD, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Australia also performed well in terms of per capita consumption of tobacco-ranking fourth lowest out of 22 countries reporting to the OECD.

According to report author, Cid Mateo, the proportion of people aged 14 years and over who smoke has fallen from 32.5% to 25.6% among males and from 26.7% to 20.8% among females since 1991.

'However, one cigarette is still one too many, given that around 19,000 Australians die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, and there's about a 20-year time lag between exposure to tobacco smoke and onset of diseases such as cancer,' Mr Mateo said.

Australia ranked 15th among reported OECD countries for consumption of alcohol in 2001 at 9.8 litres of pure alcohol per year for each person aged 15 years and over. This was some way behind Luxembourg, ranked first with 14.9 litres of pure alcohol per person, slightly less than the United Kingdom (10.2 litres per person), but more than New Zealand (8.9 litres per person) and the United States (8.3 litres per person).

'The overall level of alcohol consumption in Australia is returning to levels last seen in the 1960s,' Mr Mateo said.

'While the per capita consumption of wine had quadrupled over the last 40 years, beer consumption was slightly lower now than in 1961-62'.

Other findings in Statistics on Drug Use in Australia 2002 include:

  • Marijuana/cannabis was the most popular illicit drug in 2001, with 1 in 3 people having used the drug at least once. Around 13% used it in the last 12 months, 8% in the last month and 6% in the last week.
  • One in ten 14-17 year-olds were daily smokers, two-thirds consumed alcohol in the past 12 months, 1 in 5 used marijuana/cannabis in the last 12 months, 5% used amphetamines and 4% used ecstasy or designer drugs.
  • While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up around 2% of the Australian population in 2001, they were twice as likely to smoke, drink alcohol at levels that significantly increased the risk of acute and chronic harms, and use illicit drugs than were non-Indigenous Australians.
  • The proportion of fatally injured drivers and motorcycle riders with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 g/100 mL or more decreased from 44% in 1981 to 26% in 1998; most of this decrease occurred between 1981 and 1992, after which the proportion has remained around 26-30.

20 February 2003


Further information: Cid Mateo, tel. 02 6289 7225, or 0408 417 340 (mobile)
Mark Cooper-Stanbury, AIHW, tel. 02 6289 7027
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032