Key facts and figures on tobacco sales, consumption and prevalence
Each year, smoking kills an estimated 15,000 Australians1
and costs Australia $31.5 billion2
in social (including health) and economic costs.
The Australian Government and state and territory governments, through the Council of Australian Governments, have committed by 2018, to reduce the national adult daily smoking rate to 10% and halve the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult daily smoking rate (from 47% in 2008).
Tobacco sales and excise
Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show the total consumption of tobacco and cigarettes in the December quarters from 2012 to 2015, as measured by estimated expenditure on tobacco products:
- $5.135 billion in September 1959;
- $3.720 billion in December 2012; and
- $3.260 billion in December 2015.3
Tobacco clearances data (including excise and customs duty) are an indicator of tobacco volumes in the Australian market, and provide a useful approximation of tobacco consumption over time. Treasury has advised that tobacco clearances fell by 3.4% in the 2013 calendar year relative to the 2012 calendar year and fell a further 7.9% in the 2014 calendar year. As at the end of 2014, tobacco clearances had fallen a total of 11.0% since 2012.
These tobacco clearance rates do not take into account refunds of excise equivalent customs duty made under Customs’ plain packaging related Tobacco Refund Scheme between December 2012 and May 2013. These refunds cannot be related to annual net clearances on a comparable basis to other data used to derive tobacco clearance rates.
The tobacco excise rate was indexed to average weekly ordinary time earnings (AWOTE) from 1 March 2014 and there have been three of four 12.5% increases in the tobacco excise rate (1 December 2013, 1 September 2014, 1 September 2015) implemented. The next 12.5% increase will occur on 1 September 2016.
Smoking prevalence rates
There are a number of sources the Government relies on to monitor smoking rates, including data from national surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), and drug and alcohol information collected nationally from secondary school students by the Cancer Council Victoria.
ABS National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15
On 28 April 2016, the ABS released the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15
The survey was conducted from September 2014 to June 2015 with a sample of 11,178 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in private dwellings across Australia. The report shows that in 2014-15:
- the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over who were daily smokers was 38.9% in 2014-15, down from 44.6% in 2008 and 48.6% in 2002;
- in 2002, 51% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males aged 15 years and over were daily smokers, the daily rate declined to 46% in 2008 and to 41% in 2014-15;
- in 2002, 47% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females aged 15 years and over were daily smokers, the daily rate declined to 43% in 2008 and to 36% in 2014-15;
- fewer young people are starting to smoke with a significant decrease in daily smoking rates of those aged 15-24, down to 31% in 2014-15 from 39% in 2008; and
- the data indicates that the majority of the change in daily smoking rates has occurred in non-remote areas with 47% of people aged 15 years and over in remote areas smoking daily in 2014-15 (down from 50% in 2002) compared with 37% in non-remote locations (down from 48% in 2002).
ABS National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15
On 8 December 2015, the ABS released the National Health Survey: First Results 2014-15.5
The survey was conducted in all states and territories and across urban, rural and remote areas of Australia (other than very remote areas) from July 2014 to June 2015, and included around 19,000 people in nearly 15,000 private dwellings. The report shows that in 2014-15:
- 14.7% (age-standardised) of adults aged 18 years and over smoked daily (approximately 2.6 million smokers), decreasing from 16.1% in 2011-2012;
- 16.9% of males and 12.1% of women smoked daily;
- 16.3% of 18-44 year olds smoked daily;
- 12.7% of adults aged 45 years and over smoked daily;
- 31.4% were ex-smokers;
- 52.6% had never smoked;
- people living in Outer Regional and Remote areas of Australia had higher rates of daily smoking at 20.9% compared to people in Inner Regional areas at 16.7% and Major Cities at 13.0%; and
- 21.4% of people living in areas of most disadvantage smoked daily compared with 8.0% who live in areas of least disadvantage.
Table 1: Comparison of adult daily smoking rates, 18 years and older, from 2001 to 2014-156
Australian Secondary School Students’ use of tobacco in 2014
On 24 November 2015, the Cancer Council Victoria released the 2014 Australian secondary school students’ use of tobacco report.7
The survey included over 23,000 secondary aged students aged between 12 and 17 years of age during months of June to December of the 2014 academic school year. The report shows that in 2014:
- smoking among 12 to 15 year olds is at its lowest level since 1984, when the survey began;
- there was a significant decrease in the youth smoking rate (12-17 year olds). In 2014, 5% were current smokers which is significantly lower than the 7% found in both 2011 and 2008; and
- more youth have no experience with smoking in their lifetime: 94% of 12 year olds and 61% of 17 year olds.
National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013
On 25 November 2014, the AIHW released the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report (2013 NDSHS).8
The survey collected data from 23,855 people across Australia aged 12 years and over living in private dwellings. The report shows that in 2013:
- daily smokers aged 14 years or older in Australia declined from 16.6% in 2007, to 15.1% in 2010 and 12.8% in 2013; and
- daily smokers aged 18 years or older, declined from 17.5% in 2007, to 15.9% in 2010 to 13.3% in 2013.
Other 2013 NDSHS findings included:
- young people are delaying commencing smoking – the average age at which 14 to 24 year olds smoked their first full cigarette increased from 15.4 years of age in 2010 to 15.9 years of age in 2013;
- the proportion of 12-17 year olds who had never smoked in 2013 remained high at 95%;
- the proportion of 18 to 24 year olds who have never smoked increased significantly between 2010 and 2013, from 72% to 77% respectively;
- people aged 18 to 49 years of age were far less likely to smoke daily than they were 12 years ago;
- the average number of cigarettes smoked per week has decreased from 111 cigarettes in 2010 to 96 cigarettes in 2013; and
- 16.5% of smokers (14 years or older) reported using unbranded tobacco in their lifetime with 3.6% using unbranded tobacco (half the time or more) in 2013, declining from 4.9% in 2010.
The 2013 NDSHS results do not reflect any impact from the Australian Government’s 1 March 2014 change to bi-annual indexation of tobacco excise or the first of four 12.5% excise increases on tobacco products which took effect on 1 December 2013.
Table 2: Decrease in Australian Smoking prevalence 1991 to 20139, 10
NOTE: Comparisons between the AIHW (NDSHS) and the ABS data cannot be made as they use different methodologies.
Specific population groups6
- People aged 14 years or older, living in remote and very remote areas, were twice as likely to have smoked daily in the previous 12 months as those in major cities: 22% compared with 11.0%.
- The proportion of people aged 14 years or older smoking daily rose with increasing remoteness: 11.0% in major cities; 15.4% in inner regional; 19.4% in outer regional; and 22% in remote and very remote areas.
Socioeconomic and employment status
- People (14 years or older) living in areas with the lowest socioeconomic status (SES) were 3 times more likely to smoke daily than people with the highest SES, 19.9% compared with 6.7%, but there were significant declines in daily smoking in both these groups between 2010 and 2013.
- The declines in daily smoking seen nationally were also seen among employed people but there were no significant changes in the smoking behaviour of unemployed people who were unable to work between 2010 and 2013.
- People aged 14 years or older, who were unemployed, were 1.7 times more likely to smoke daily and those who were unable to work were 2.4 times more likely to smoke daily.
- Compared to 2010, employed people aged 14 years or older were less likely to smoke daily in 2013, down from 16.1% to 13.5% respectively.
Table 3: Comparison of 2010 and 2013 State and Territory tobacco smoking status, people aged 14 years or older, by sex and jurisdiction (age-standardised).11, 12
Figure 1: Smoking prevalence rates for 14 years or older and key tobacco control measures implemented in Australia since 19906
Text version of graph
Tobacco control timeline
Australia’s low smoking rate is the result of sustained, concerted and comprehensive public policy efforts from all levels of government and action from public health organisations.
- 1973 – health warnings first mandated on all cigarette packs in Australia.
- 1976 – bans on all cigarette advertising on radio and television in Australia.
- 1986 to 2006 – phased in bans on smoking in workplaces and public places.
- 1990 – bans on advertising of tobacco products in newspapers and magazines published in Australia.
- 1992 – increase in the tobacco excise.
- 1993 – Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 prohibited broadcasting and publication of tobacco advertisements.
- from 1994 to 2003 – bans on smoking in restaurants.
- 1995 – nationally consistent text-only health warnings required.
- 1998 to 2006 – bans on point-of-sale tobacco advertising across Australia.
- 2006 – graphic health warnings required on packaging of most tobacco products.
- 2010 – 25% increase in the tobacco excise.
- 2011 – first complete State or Territory ban on point-of-sale tobacco product displays.
- 2012 – offence for any person to publish tobacco advertising on the internet or other electronic media.
- 2012 – introduction of tobacco plain packaging, and updated and expanded graphic health warnings.
- 2013 – changes to the bi-annual indexation of tobacco excise and the introduction of the first 12.5% tobacco excise increase on 1 December.
- 2014 –12.5% excise increase on 1 September.
- 2015 –12.5% excise increase on 1 September.
- 2016 – release of the Post Implementation Review of Tobacco Plain Packaging.
- 2016 –12.5% excise increase will be implemented on 1 September.
Tobacco plain packaging
Further information on the impact of tobacco plain packaging in Australia is available on the Evaluation of Tobacco Plain Packaging in Australia page