Tobacco smoking is one of the largest preventable causes of death and disease in Australia. Smoking is estimated to kill almost 20,500 Australians a year (13% of all deaths) and was responsible for 8.6% of the total burden of disease in Australia in 2018 (AIHW 2021). It is associated with an increased risk of a wide range of health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, renal disease, eye disease and respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis (ABS 2021).

Using the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) experimental Smoker Status, Australia 2020–21 data set, this report examines the prevalence of smoking among Australians who have ever served in the ADF. In one of the first studies of its kind within Australia, the Smoking among Australia’s veterans 2020–21 report identifies subpopulations of veterans who may be at higher risk of smoking, including those of a certain age, sex, self-assessed health status, labour force status, composition of household, educational attainment, or geographical location. For more information on the Smoker Status, Australia 2020–21 data set, refer to Technical notes.

What is smoker status?

Smoker status refers to the frequency of smoking of tobacco, including manufactured (packet) cigarettes, roll-your-own cigarettes, cigars and pipes, as defined by the ABS in the Smoker Status, Australia 2020–21 data set. Throughout this report, veterans have been categorised as either: 

  • Current smokers: respondents who regularly smoked one or more cigarettes, cigars or pipes per day, and respondents who smoked cigarettes, cigars or pipes, less frequently than daily.
  • Current non-smokers: respondents who did not smoke cigarettes, cigars or pipes. This includes people who have never smoked or who are ex-smokers.

Smoker status analysis excludes chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes (and similar vaping devices which may contain nicotine and other toxic chemicals) and smoking of non-tobacco products (ABS 2021). For more information, refer to Technical notes.

Who are veterans?

Veterans are considered people who have any experience in the ADF, including current (permanent), reserve, and former (ex-serving) personnel (Tehan 2017). For more information, see Who is a veteran?.

To identify veterans as part of this report, survey respondents in the ABS’ Smoker Status, Australia 2020–21 data set were split into two groups for analysis using certain self-reported characteristics:

Has ever served in the ADF

  • Persons who self-reported they were 18 years or over, and
  • Who answered ‘Yes’ when asked ‘Have you ever served in the Australian Defence Force?’

This group may include permanent, reservist, and/or ex-serving ADF members.

Has never served in the ADF

  • Persons who self-reported they were 18 years or over, and
  • Who answered ‘No’ when asked ‘Have you ever served in the Australian Defence Force?’

This group may include dependants and spouses of serving and ex-serving ADF members, as well as the broader Australian population.

Results contained in this report may use a different definition of veterans or provide different estimates of the number of Australian veterans to other publications. As such, definitions and findings presented in this report should not be compared to those of other publications.

The Demographic profile of veterans who smoke section of this report contains data for both males and females. In the Population characteristics and Geographical characteristics sections data are disaggregated further, however results are only presented for males due to female population sizes being too small to report.