Daily tobacco use now 'lowest among industrialised nations'

Australia now has the lowest smoking rates of all the industrialised nations that comprise the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report, Statistics on Drug Use in Australia 2004, shows that the proportion of the population aged 14 and over who smoked daily fell from 19.5% to 17.4% between 2001 and 2004.

At the other end of the tobacco smoking scale among OECD nations were the Netherlands, Hungary, Korea and Japan, all with rates of over 30%. Australian rates were also considerably lower than those for the UK (27%) and New Zealand (25%).

AIHW report author Priscilla Dowling said that being lowest-ranked among OECD countries meant that Australia 'probably had the lowest rates in the world, although one can never be absolutely certain, because many countries outside the OECD do not collect accurate data of this kind'.

Ms Dowling said that while the Australian figures were 'something the nation could be proud of', there was one anomaly.
'Men, on the whole, were more likely to smoke daily than women-but not for the 14-19 years age group, where 12% of girls were daily smokers compared with 10% of boys.'

Marijuana use also fell, to its lowest figure in 13 years. The proportion of people who had recently used marijuana/cannabis was 11% in 2004-but around 1 in 5 teenagers had used cannabis in the last 12 months.

While marijuana use was at a new low, recent ecstasy use hit a new peak (3%).

'While the 3% overall figure might not seem all that much, ecstasy and related drugs were commonly used by 12- to 24-year-olds in 2004', Ms Dowling said.

'In particular, among the 20- to 24-year-olds, 13% had used ecstasy recently, while 11% had used meth/amphetamines.'

The report shows that deaths from accidental opioid (typically heroin) overdose among 15- to 54-year-olds was now at around one-third of the peaks experienced in the late 1990s (when the rates were around 1 death per 10,000 persons).

Other findings in the report included:

  • Approximately 16% of people who had recently used marijuana/cannabis had been diagnosed with and/or treated for a mental health disorder in the last 12 months, compared with 9% of non-users.
  • Although pregnant women and breastfeeding women were less likely to consume alcohol and illicit drugs than if they weren't pregnant or breastfeeding, they were much less likely to reduce their smoking.
  • 1 in 10 sentenced prisoners in 2004 was imprisoned for drug-related offences, most commonly dealing/trafficking drugs.
  • Statistics on Drug Use in Australia 2004 is the eleventh report in a series first produced in 1985.

29 July 2005

Further information: Priscilla Dowling, AIHW, tel. 6289 5675; 0417 140 098

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