Smoking rates in Australia

How many men smoke in Australia?

  • In 1945 approximately 72% of Australian men smoked. (1)
  • The rate has been dropping since then.
  • In 2010 only 16.4% of Australian males (14 years or older) were daily smokers. (2)
  • The daily smoking rate among males (16 years or older) in NSW was 13.8% in 2010. (3)

What about women?

  • In 1945 26% of Australian women smoked. (1)
  • By 1976 this figure had risen to a peak of 33%. (1)
  • In 2010 the national daily smoking rate among females (14 years or older) of 13.9%. (2)
  • The daily smoking rate among females (16 years or older) in NSW was 9.8% in 2010. (3)

What about youth?

  • A 2008 survey of Australian secondary school students found that current (smoked in the last week) smoking rates were 6.9% among boys aged 12 to 17 and 7.7% among girls in the same age group. (4)
  • The figures peaked at 14.5% for 17 year old boys and 12.7% for 17 year old girls. (4)
  • Among students in NSW current (smoked in the last 7 days) smoking rates in 2008 were 6.9% among boys and 7.7% among girls aged 12 to 17. (5)
  • The NSW students figures peaked at 16.7% for 17 year old boys and 14.3% for 17 year old girls. (5)
  • Since 1984, when the first NSW secondary school survey on smoking was conducted, smoking rates among 12 to 17 year old secondary school students have declined significantly from a high of 20.5%. (6)

Why have smoking rates among the general population declined so dramatically over recent decades?

  • It is likely that the decline in smoking rates during recent decades has occurred as a result of concerted and sustained government tobacco control strategies such as high tobacco taxes, advertising bans, mass media public education campaigns and smoke-free environments legislation.

Which age groups smoke most?

  • The highest rates of daily smoking among Australian men (by age) in 2010 were in the 30-39 and 40-49 years age groups (both at 20.2%) and for women, in the 40-49 years age group (18.8%). (2)


Is there a link between smoking and occupation?

  • For both men and women, smoking rates are higher among manual and factory workers than among office workers and professionals. For example, the 2004-2005 National Health Survey showed that current smoking rates among “professionals” was 13.3%. Among “Labourers and related workers” the figure was 39.8%. (8)
  • There is also a relationship with education – those who leave school early are more likely to smoke than those with higher levels of education. (1)

How many deaths and hospital admissions are smoking-related?

  • In 2003 there were 15,511 smoking-related deaths in Australia. (9)
  • Tobacco use accounted for 7.8% of the total burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003. (9)
  • Tobacco caused 14.8% of all Australian deaths among men in 2003 and 8.4% of deaths from all causes among women. (9)
  • There were 5,081 smoking -attributable deaths in NSW in 2006. (10)
  • In NSW, there were 42,356 smoking-related hospital admissions in 2006-07. (10)

The social costs of smoking

  • In 2004-5, the social costs of tobacco use in Australia were an estimated $31.5 billion, an increase of $10.4 billion from the previous costs estimated for 1998-9.10


1. Scollo MM, Winstanley MH. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and Issues. Third Edition. Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, 2008. (accessed 25 July 2011)

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2011. 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report. Drug statistics series no. 25. Cat. no. PHE 145. Canberra: AIHW. (accessed 8 August 2011)

3. Centre for Epidemiology and research. 2010 Report on Adult Health from the New South Wales Population Health Survey. Sydney: NSW Department of Health, 2011.

4. White V, Smith G. Australian secondary school students’ use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2008. Report prepared for Drug Strategy Branch Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Cancer Council Victoria. Melbourne, 2009. (accessed 25 July 2011)

5. Centre for Epidemiology and Research. New South Wales School Students Health Behaviours Survey: 2008 Report. Sydney: NSW Department of Health, 2009. (accessed 25 July 2011) (PDF 1Kb)

6. Centre for Epidemiology and Research, NSW Department of Health. The health behaviours of secondary school students in New South Wales 2002. NSW Public Health Bulletin. 2004: 15(S-2).

7. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Substance use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Canberra, 2011. (accessed 25 July 2011)

8. Smith D & Leggat P. Tobacco Smoking by Occupation in Australia – Results from the 2004 to 2005 National Health Survey. Journal of Environmental and Occupational Medicine. Volume 49, Number. 4 April 2007.

9. Begg S, Vos T, Barker B, Stevenson C, Stanley L, Lopez AD, 2007. The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Canberra 2007. (accessed 25 July 2011) (PDF 2.98 Mb)

10. Collins D and Lapsley H. The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian society in 2004/05. Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra, 2008. (accessed 25 July 2011)


About Steve Gardiner

Stephen Gardiner originates from Rhodesia, (Zimbabwe) then working around the globe before finally settling in Brisbane Australia. As a scientist, Steve always had an interest in human development, especially Mind Plastisicity and how we cope with stress, anxiety and addictive behaviours. Over the past 15 years Steve has assisted many clients to transform their lives by resolving the obstacles holding them back.

Entries by Steve Gardiner