Tobacco key facts and figures

Page last updated: 10 December 2014

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.

Tobacco sales

Recent figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that total consumption of tobacco and cigarettes in the March quarter 2014 is the lowest ever recorded, as measured by estimated expenditure on tobacco products:
  • $5.135 billion in September 1959;
  • $3.508 billion in December 2012; and
  • $3.405 billion in March 2014.3

Tobacco consumption

The Commonwealth Treasury has further advised that tobacco clearances (including excise and customs duty) fell by 3.4% in 2013 relative to 2012 when tobacco plain packaging was introduced.

Clearances are an indicator of tobacco volumes in the Australian market.

Smoking prevalence rates

In relation to smoking rates, the Australian Government relies on data from national surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013

On 17 July 2014, the AIHW released the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: key findings, which outlines the topline data for tobacco, alcohol and licit and illicit drugs.

On 25 November 2014, AIHW’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 20134 was released showing that there has been a significant decrease in daily smokers aged 14 years or older in Australia, falling from 16.6% in 2007, 15.1% in 2010 to 12.8% in 2013.

Table 1: Daily smokers aged 14 years or older from 1991 to 20135

1991
1993
1995
1998
2001
2004
2007
2010
2013
Total %
24.3
25.0
23.8
21.8
19.4
17.5
16.6
15.1
12.8#

As outlined in the table below, the smoking rates over the last 20 years, from 1993 to 2013, for daily smokers aged 18 years or older has halved, from 26.1% to 13.3%.

Table 2: Daily smokers aged 18 years or older from 1991 to 20136

1991
1993*
1995
1998
2001
2004
2007
2010
2013
Total %
25.0
26.1
25.0
22.7
20.0
18.2
17.5
15.9
13.3#

*age group 20+ for 1993
# statistically significant change between 2010 and 2013

Other tobacco related findings from the NDSHS detailed report 2013 are:
  • Young people are delaying commencing smoking – the 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 years 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.
  • 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.
  • Dependent children are far less likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke inside the home, (2013, 3.7% compared to 1995 at 31%).
These results do not reflect any impact from the Australian Government’s 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.

Specific population groups

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians aged 14 years or older were two and a half times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to smoke daily in 2013: 32% (Indigenous compared to 12.4% (non-Indigenous).
  • The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians aged 14 years or older smoking daily declined from 35% in 2010 to 32% in 2013, and the number of cigarettes smoked per week declined significantly, from 154 in 2010 to 115 in 2013.

Remoteness

  • 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)7

2010
2010NSWVicQLDWASATasACTNTNational
Males15.615.018.417.517.116.112.027.516.4
Females12.914.715.013.613.115.810.116.813.9
Persons14.214.916.715.615.015.911.022.315.1
2013
2013NSWVicQLDWASATasACTNTNational
Males13.314.017.015.712.919.89.623.614.6
Females10.310.613.38.913.013.19.717.611.2
Persons11.812.3#15.212.3#13.016.59.720.812.9#

# statistically significant change between 2010 and 2013


Figure 1: Smoking prevalence rates for 14 years or older and key tobacco control measures implemented in Australia since 19905


Line graph showing the smoking prevelance rates for 14 years or older and key tobacco control measures implemented in Australia since 1990
Text version of graph

Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12

The ABS Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12 were released on 30 July 2013 and reported that in 2011-12, 16.3% of Australians aged 18 years and older smoked daily (age standardised).

Table 4: Adult daily smoking rates, 18 years and older, from 2001 to 2011-124, 5

2001*2004-05*2007-08*2011-12*
Males27.226.223.018.3
Females21.220.319.014.1
Total %22.321.319.116.3

*Age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations9

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: First Results, 2012-13 (released in November 2013) show that 41% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians aged 15 years and over and 43.8% aged 18 years and over smoked daily. (Note: age standardised rates were 39.8% (15+) and 41.2% (18+))9.

The results show that the take up of smoking has declined, with 37% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (aged 15 years and over) having never smoked compared with 30% in 2002.9

Final results of the survey will be published later in 2014.

Tobacco control in Australia

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 – introduction of tobacco plain packaging, and updated and expanded graphic health warnings;
  • 2013 – changes to the bi-annual indexation of tobacco excise and a further 12.5% excise increase on 1 December;
  • 2014 - second of four 12.5% excise increases on 1 September 2013; and
  • 2015 and 2016 – remaining 12.5% excise increases on 1 September each year.

Tobacco plain packaging

The objectives of the tobacco plain packaging measure are to:
  • reduce the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products to consumers, particularly young people;
  • increase the noticeability and effectiveness of mandated health warnings;
  • reduce the ability of the retail packaging of tobacco products to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking; and
  • through the achievement of these aims in the long term, as part of a comprehensive range of tobacco control measures, contribute to efforts to reduce smoking rates.
Tobacco plain packaging operates as part of a comprehensive set of tobacco control measures. It is an investment in the long term health of Australians and its full effects will be seen over the long term.

Questions and Answers

Question: Have tobacco sales increased since the introduction of tobacco plain packaging on
1 December 2012?

Answer:

Tobacco sales data are not publicly available.

Recent figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that total consumption of tobacco and cigarettes in the March quarter 2014 is the lowest ever recorded, as measured by estimated expenditure on tobacco products i.e. $5.135 billion in September 1959, $3.508 billion in December 2012 and $3.405 billion in March 2014. See Table 8 at 5206.0 - Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, Mar 2014

The Commonwealth Treasury has further advised that tobacco clearances (including excise and customs duty) fell by 3.4% in 2013 relative to 2012 when tobacco plain packaging was introduced.

In April 2013, the CEO of a major tobacco company noted a decline in tobacco product sales:

“As I'm looking at Asia Pacific, I should also mention Australia, we've had the first six months of the plain pack environment in Australia. We've seen the market decline roughly 2% to 3%, so maybe not as bad as we might have anticipated.” Transcript of Imperial Tobacco half-year 2013 results - Interview with Alison Cooper, CEO, and Bob Dyrbus, FD

Question: Are Australia’s tobacco plain packaging laws having an impact on smoking rates in Australia?

Answer:

Over the past 40 years, Australian Governments have implemented an increasingly progressive range of tobacco control measures including advertising and promotion restrictions, education campaigns, bans on smoking in enclosed and public spaces, excise increases, quitlines, graphic health warnings and tobacco plain packaging, which together have worked to cut smoking rates in half.

In relation to smoking rates, the Australian Government relies on data from national surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The results of the Australian Health Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, show that the national adult (18 years and over) daily smoking rate has continued to fall, from 22.3% in 2001 to 16.3% in 2011-12. This is the most recent national data available on smoking prevalence. 4364.0.55.001 - Australian Health Survey: First Results, 2011-12 - Tobacco smoking

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s, National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013 released on 25 November 2014, shows smoking rates have significantly fallen for people aged 14 years or older from 15.1% in 2010 to 12.8% in 2013 and for people aged 18 years or older from 15.9% in 2010 to 13.3% in 2013. The report and online tables are available from the AIHW website.

Question: What is the evidence for the introduction of tobacco plain packaging?

Answer:

Tobacco plain packaging is based on a broad range of studies and reports, and supported by leading Australian and international public health experts.

Extensive research evidence to June 2009 in support of tobacco plain packaging is set out in the reports of the National Preventative Health Taskforce, a group of Australia’s leading public health experts. The report of the Taskforce is available on the Preventative Health Taskforce website.

The research shows that industry branding and packaging design can mislead about the harmful effects of the product, reduce the effectiveness of graphic health warnings on tobacco products, and increase the appeal of tobacco to young people.

Since 2009 the evidence base has continued to grow. Some additional studies were referenced in the government’s consultation paper on the plain packaging legislation released in April 2011. A review of the evidence prepared by the Cancer Council Victoria – which cited 24 studies in the peer-reviewed literature – was tabled in the House of Representatives on 25 May 2011. The Cancer Council Victoria evidence review was updated in August 2011. Evidence - Plain packaging of cigarettes: a review of the evidence

Question: Have any early impacts of tobacco plain packaging been identified?

Answer:

Research undertaken during the roll-out phase of the tobacco plain packaging legislation, when both plain and branded packs were available found that plain packaged cigarettes with larger health warnings increased smokers’ urgency to quit and lowered the appeal of smoking. Introduction effects of the Australian plain packaging policy on adult smokers: a cross-sectional study

A recent observational study of the prevalence of cigarette pack display and smoking in outdoor venues before and after the introduction of tobacco plain packaging and larger graphic health warnings, indicate a decline in apparent active smoking rates and personal pack display (packs clearly visible on tables) among patrons.
Personal tobacco pack display before and after the introduction of plain packaging with larger pictorial health warnings in Australia: an observational study of outdoor café strips

Research has also found a significant increase in the number of calls to the smoking cessation helpline, Quitline, in NSW and the ACT. The research showed a 78% increase in the number of calls to the Quitline associated with the introduction of plain packaging. This peak occurred four weeks after the initial appearance of plain packaging. This research also found the increase in calls was sustained and was not attributable to anti-tobacco advertising activity, cigarette price increases, nor other identifiable causes.
Association between tobacco plain packaging and Quitline calls: a population-based, interrupted time-series analysis

The effect of tobacco plain packaging, as part of Australia's comprehensive package of tobacco control measures, will be seen over the longer term.

In particular, by reducing the appeal of tobacco products and preventing consumers being misled about the harms of tobacco products, it is anticipated that tobacco plain packaging will have an impact on uptake of smoking by youth, and will encourage existing smokers to quit and stay quit.

Question: Figures quoted in the press suggest that smoking rates have increased in New South Wales and South Australia.

Answer:

New South Wales

A major Australian daily newspaper reported that 'Last year's NSW population health survey, released last month, showed 16.4 per cent of all adults in the state smoke, up from 14.7 per cent in 2011'.

While these figures are accurate, they are incomplete in that they do not report the 2012 smoking rate of 17.1% i.e. the 2013 smoking rate of 16.4% was less than the 2012 smoking rate of 17.1%.

The increase in smoking rates between 2011 (14.7%) and 2012 (17.1%) is likely to have been due to a change in the methodology of the survey, in which mobile phones were included in the survey methods for the first time. This would have captured more young people, especially young men, who typically have higher current smoking rates.

Current smoking in adults by sex, NSW 2002 to 2013
Snapshot May 2014 - Tobacco Strategy 2012-2017

From 2002 to 2011, when the methodology changed, the long-term trend in smoking in NSW had been downwards.

As outlined in Table 3, smoking rates in NSW have fallen from 14.2% in 2007 to 11.8% in 2013.

South Australia

A major Australian daily newspaper reported that ' in South Australia (smoking) rates were up from 16.7 per cent to 19.4 per cent over the past year’.

These statistics, which were released by the South Australian Minister for Health, are to be understood in the context that the state government ceased all expenditure on social marketing in June 2013 after a period of strong investment.

Media release - Alfresco dining areas out of puff

There is a solid research evidence base about quality social marketing as part of a comprehensive approach to tobacco control. In recognition of this fact, and following the release of the latest smoking data, the South Australian Health Minister, Jack Snelling MP, stated in May 2014 that the State Government will re-instate $1.1 million a year in anti-tobacco mass media campaigns.

Question: Will funding continue for anti-smoking social marketing activity in 2013-14?

Answer:

The Department of Health is well placed to undertake social marketing activities and is responsible for delivering the National Tobacco Campaign – More Targeted Approach, which targets hard to reach audiences and high prevalence smoking groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

On 31 May 2014, World No Tobacco Day, the Government announced an injection of $4.6 million to the More Targeted Approach Campaign in 2013-14.

As outlines in Table 3, smoking rates in South Australia have fallen 15.0% in 2007 to 13.0% in 2013.

Question: Will funding for Quitline services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue?

Answer:

All Quitline services targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue - there have been no cuts.


1. Begg S., Vos T., Barker B., Stevenson C., Stanley L., and Lopez AD., (2007) The Burden of Disease and Injury in Australia 2003, PHE 82 Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, p76.
2. Collins D., and Lapsley H., (2008) The Cost of Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drug Abuse to Australian Society in 2004/05, Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Health and Ageing, Monograph Series No.64, p65.
3. ABS website - 5206.0 - Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, Mar 2014
4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014. National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013. Drug statistics series no. 28. Cat. No. PHE 183. Canberra: AIHW. Available from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/alcohol-and-other-drugs/ndshs/
5. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 1991, 1993, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013.
6. Figures for 1991, 1993, and 1995 are from AIHW unpublished data. 1998 to 2010 data is from the 2010 NDSHS report, Supplementary table, released on the AIHW website, 5 November 2010. 2013 data available at www.aihw.gov.au/alcohol-and-other-drugs/ndshs/
7. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2014). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report. Online Table A7.1, Tobacco smoking status, people aged 14 years or older, by sex and state/territory, 2013 (age-standardised per cent)
8. For 2001, 2004-05 and 2007-08 – ABS, 4125.0 – Gender Indicators, Australia, July 2012.
8. ABS Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12 (AHS), released 30 July 2013, Table 13.3, Selected health characteristics with age standardised proportions – 2001 to 2011-12.
9. ABS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Updated Results, 2012-13 – Australia, released 26 March 2014. Table 10.3 Health Risk Factors. (NB: non age-standardised data has been used.)


Last updated 10 December 2014