Smoking rates in Victoria drop to record lows, new research reveals

Tuesday 6 August, 2013

New Cancer Council Victoria data released today has revealed regular smoking rates in Victoria have dropped to a record low of 13.3%.

Almost 60% of Victorian adults have never smoked, with the survey recording the highest proportion of never and non-smokers since the survey began in 1998.

The Smoking prevalence and consumption in Victoria: key findings from the 1998-2012 population surveys report also found:

  • While regular smoking rates (daily or weekly) dropped to 13.3% in 2012, daily smoking rates fell to 11.7%
  • Almost six out of ten Victorian adults and more than 70% of those aged 18-29 have never smoked
  • The prevalence of regular smoking declined most rapidly amongst the most disadvantaged Victorians between 2005-2012, reversing a trend in previous years for smoking rates to decline fastest amongst Victoria’s most advantaged.
  • Males (16%) were significantly more likely to be smoking on a regular basis than females (11.2%)

Quit Victoria Executive Director Fiona Sharkie said this evidence of a ‘narrowing of the gap’ in smoking status between low and high SES Victorians could be due to tobacco control initiatives with a particular emphasis on reducing smoking among low SES adults.

“We’ve seen declines across all age groups and socio-economic groups in recent years but the acceleration in the decline in smoking rates amongst Victoria’s most disadvantaged communities and young people is very encouraging,” she said.

“Highly emotive anti-smoking advertising campaigns have been shown to have the greatest impact on low SES groups and is the result of long-term investment from both State and Federal governments.

“We need to see that investment sustained at high levels in this area for this decline to continue.”

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said the proportion of people who had never smoked had risen by just over 8% since 1998.

“This is a reflection of the fact that fewer young people are taking up the habit than ever before,” he said.

But Mr Harper cautioned against interpreting the drop in smoking rates as a sign smoking was no longer a major health problem in Victoria.

Lung cancer is Victoria’s biggest cancer killer and 80% to 90% of lung cancers are caused by smoking,” he said. “With almost 4000 Victorians dying every year from smoking-caused disease, tobacco must remain a public health priority.”

About the research

The Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer has been conducting annual Smoking and Health telephone surveys of Victorian adults since 1985.

This report presents data on smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption from the most recent survey undertaken. Trend data from across the 15 prior surveys are also reported.

The survey, fielded in November 2012, is unable to provide an assessment of the relationship between plain packaging and larger graphic health warnings and smoking prevalence.