Cigarette smoking rates have continued to steadily decline in Australia for two decades.
Improved public health messaging, government tobacco control strategies, improved smoking cessation tools, and the implementation of smoke-free environments have all contributed to a decrease in smoking among the Australian population.
Though smoking was once prevalent among young adults and teenagers, smoking rates among today’s youth continue to fall rapidly. So, what does smoking look like among teenagers in Australia today? We take a look at the statistics.
The Effects Of Smoking In Australia | The Statistics
Smoking costs the Australian community approximately $137 billion per year, however, the costs extend far beyond a dollar value.
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Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death and disease in Australia. It’s estimated that smoking kills 20,500 Australians a year, making smoking responsible for 13% of all deaths each year.
Tobacco use is linked to 39 different illnesses, including at least 19 types of cancer. Lung cancer, which is primarily caused by smoking, is responsible for the most cancer-related deaths in Australia.
Smoking In Australia in 2020 – 2021
While there have been limited studies undertaken during the 2020 – 2021 period, data from the most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) study showed an insight into smoking prevalence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 10.7% of adults were daily smokers
- 8.3% of people aged 18 to 24 smoked daily
- 13.7% of people aged 55 to 64 smoked daily
- 3.4% of people aged 75 and over smoked daily
- Men were more likely to smoke than women, with smoking rates of 12.6% and 8.8% respectively
- 98% of 15 to 17-year-olds are current non-smokers.
Teenage Smoking In Australia
Smoking rates among Australian school students have decreased by two-thirds since 1999.
During the mid to late 1990s, the National Tobacco Campaign was launched and helped to significantly reduce smoking rates among adults.
While the campaign wasn’t targeted at teens and children, it still had an impact; the campaign correlated with a decrease in smoking rates among young people too.
Factors such as tobacco taxes, smoke-free environments, and stricter guidelines on selling tobacco products to minors are likely to have influenced the downward trend among teenagers.
The national strategy was updated in 2012 with a refreshed media campaign, plain tobacco packaging, and the implementation of more smoke-free environments.
While rates continue to fall, it’s believed that progress has slowed due to a lack of updated campaigning, as well as the creation of new tobacco products and brands that evade Australian laws and appear attractive to younger people.
A study by the Australian Secondary Students Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSAD) found that in 2017:
- 82% of teenagers aged 12 to 17 had never smoked, up from 77% in 2011
- 5% of Australian secondary schoolers aged 12 to 17 were current smokers (smoking at least once in the previous week), down from 7% in 2011
- 7% of Australian secondary schoolers aged 12 to 17 had smoked at least once in the past month, down from 9% in 2011
- 2% of Australian secondary schoolers aged 12 to 15 had smoked on at least three days over the past week
- 5% of Australian secondary schoolers aged 16 to 17 had smoked on at least three days over the past week
- The overall rate of current smoking among teenagers aged 12 to 15 was 3% (3% for both males and females)
- The overall rate of current smoking among teenagers aged 16 to 17 was 9% (10% for males and 9% for females)
- 29% of Australian secondary schoolers aged 12 to 17 who had smoked in the past month used RYO tobacco at least 20 times, which was up from 24% in 2014
Daily Smoking Rates For Teenagers
Between 2001 and 2019, the daily smoking rate of teenagers and young adults decreased by about two-thirds. A study conducted by the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) in 2019 showed that:
- 97% of adolescents aged 14 to 17 had never smoked
- Daily smoking rates were 1.9% among 14 to 17-year-olds, a significant decrease from 11.2% in 2001
- For Australians aged 18 to 24, 9.2% smoked daily which was down from 24% in 2001
- 31% of Indigenous Australians aged 15 to 24 were current daily smokers, down from 45% in 2002
In 2019, the age of smoking initiation was 16.6, up from 14.3 in 2001. Traditionally, females smoked their first full cigarette at a younger age than males.
2019 marked the first year that the age of smoking initiation was the same for both males and females.
Vaping Rates Among School Students
Vapes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices containing cartridges of liquid. The liquid usually contains nicotine, flavouring, and other chemicals.
However, vapes contain nicotine, a chemical that has been shown to harm brain development in adolescents and promote addiction. There is also some evidence that vaping can eventually lead to tobacco use in teenagers.
As vaping is a relatively new technology and there is a myriad of vaping products on the market, research into the long-term and likely harmful effects of vaping is still ongoing.
The 2017 ASSAD study looked at vaping rates among secondary school students. Unsurprisingly, vaping rates were higher than cigarette smoking rates among young people. It found that:
- Around 14% of school students had experimented with e-cigarettes
- 32% of secondary school students vaped at least once in the past month, and 13% at least 3 times in the previous month
- 48% of students who vaped had never smoked a cigarette
- 20% of students who vaped had smoked only a few puffs of a cigarette
- 11% of students who vaped had smoked less than 10 cigarettes
The 2019 NDSHS study showed that between 2016 and 2019, the number of adults aged 18-24 who have used e-cigarettes or vapes increased from 19.1% to 26%.
More recently, the Life Ed Programme’s research saw a huge increase in the number of secondary students who vape. It mentions that at least 13% of secondary students, about 1 in 8, have tried vaping once.
Furthermore, most students assume 86% of their classmates vape, with majority of non-vaping students thinking it’s a serious problem.
Smoking Rates In Young Indigenous Australians
Though tobacco use continues to decline in Australia, it remains disproportionately high among Indigenous Australians.
While smoking is not a traditional practice in Aboriginal culture, the introduction of tobacco into Indigenous communities by white people has had long-lasting impacts.
The overall smoking rate among Indigenous people is approximately double that of non-Indigenous Australians.
Poverty, social disadvantage, and educational gaps play a part in keeping smoking rates higher among Indigenous communities, as do prevalent instances of mental illness, grief and loss, and early exposure to smoking as a social norm.
In 2018, the Australian Burden of Disease Study found that:
- Tobacco use accounted for 11.9% of the total disease burden in Indigenous Australians
- Tobacco use contributed to 23% of deaths in Indigenous Australians and was the leading health risk factor for males and females
The 2017 ASSAD survey showed that smoking rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have been decreasing over time, following a similar trend to that of the non-indigenous Australian population.
- 10% of 12 to 15-year-olds were current smokers, down from 27% in 1996
- 18% of 16 to 17-year-olds were current smokers, down from 44% in 1996
Additionally, a 2019 study from the ABS found that 43.4% of Indigenous Australians aged 18 and over were current smokers, down from 54.5% in 1994.
This decline mostly appeared in non-remote areas, falling from 54.5% in 1994 to 39.6% in 2018 – 2019. In remote areas, the proportion of smokers increased slightly from 54.3% to 59.3% respectively.
The Benefits Of Quitting Smoking
In Australia today, the number of people who have quit smoking outweigh the number of people who still smoke. The 2019 NDSHS study found that 62% of people who had ever smoked had quit.
Quitting smoking results in both immediate health benefits and a reduced risk for developing tobacco-related cancers, cardiovascular disease, and other smoking-related illnesses — you can even see great results within six days.
People who quit smoking before the age of 40 decrease their risk of dying from smoking-related disease by around 90% when compared to someone who smokes throughout their life. The long-term benefits of smoking include:
- After five smoke-free years, a person’s risk of stroke is the same as that of a non-smoker.
- After ten years, a person’s lung cancer risk is half of what it was when they were smoking.
- At 15 years, a previous smoker’s heart disease risk is the same as that of a non-smoker.
If you’re ready to take the next step, here’s everything you’ll want to know.
Consult a GP
Think of your GP as a guide during a hike. They know the path and have guided others through the entire journey. GPs can create a tailor-made smoking cessation programme based on your consumption and needs.
Only Use Prescribed Pharmacy NVPs
NVP products sold in pharmacies are made under stringent pharmaceutical standards on the manufacturing process and ingredients, are toxicologically assessed for inhalation, are locally insured, and are specifically designed to help you stop smoking.
Illicit NVPs sold online and in shops may contain high levels of nicotine and dangerous chemicals. Even if their label says they’re nicotine-free, they may still contain it.
With medical NVPs, smokers can have confidence they can curb their withdrawals safely. You can only access these NVPs as a second-line tool once a GP deems NRTs not to work effectively for you.
Regarding the efficacy of NVPs, pharmacy-sold ones work better than NRTs. The latest Cochrane Review found high-certainty evidence that NVPs are more effective than NRT in helping people stop smoking.
Teenage smoking may have declined across the country, but efforts are needed to reduce it further, including the number of vaping teenagers in the country. Over time, there would be little to no teenage smoking and vaping as policies delve further into eliminating tobacco.
We know you’re here because you want to stop smoking for good. We can help.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to bulk-billing Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good, including using responsible vaping products where appropriate.
Click here to book your bulk-billed telehealth consultation with an Australian healthcare professional and quit smoking today.