Smoking prevalence and consumption in Victoria: key findings from the Victorian Smoking and Health population surveys

LInda Hayes, Sarah Durkin, Emily Bain, Melanie Wakefield

CBRC Research Paper Series No. 47


Regular and daily smoking rates among Victorian adults in the general population have substantially declined over the past decade; this can be attributed to an increase in the proportion of smokers quitting and to a decrease in the uptake of regular smoking.

Declines in regular smoking prevalence were observed among younger and mid aged  adults, however the prevalence of regular smoking did not change for adults in the 50 plus age group between 2004-2005 and 2015. Nor did it change for adults who had not
completed Year 12 education (an older age group on average) across the past decade. 

While historical disparities in smoking prevalence between socio-economic groups continue, there was evidence of narrowing in the absolute gap in regular smoking prevalence between SES groups from 7.7% points in 2004-2005 to 4.7% points in 2015. A
similar gap reduction was observed for daily smoking prevalence across this period. This reduction appeared to be due to a greater rate of increased quitting among ever smokers from low SES groups, while the proportion of never smokers increased at similar rates across SES groups.

Factory made cigarettes (FMCs) remain the most commonly smoked form of tobacco among Victorian smokers. However, over the past five years, declines in the use of FMCs have been recorded; smokers have become less likely to report that they are currently
smoking FMCs, or to report exclusive use of FMCs. Consumption levels have also declined; in 2015 a daily smoker consumed seven fewer FMCs each day on average, compared to a daily smoker in 1998. Meanwhile, current roll your own (RYO) use was at its highest recorded level amongst Victorian smokers in 2015, with 36.6% of smokers reporting some current use. Recent rises in current RYO use were observed across all age groups of smokers studied. These increases in RYO use only slightly offset the decline in FMC use, with smokers in 2015 consuming five fewer cigarettes daily in total (including both FMC or RYO cigarettes) than back in 1998.

This report also summarises findings from an external report1 into how methodological changes to the Victorian Smoking and Health Survey (VSHS) impacted on observed prevalence estimates of smoking and the quit ratio among Victorian adults. The external
report indicated that particularly in 2009, 2010 and 2012 the original VSHS survey underestimated smoking prevalence and that survey estimates obtained during the transition in methodology should be interpreted with caution. Today, the current VSHS dualframe
recruitment method with an increased proportion of mobile phone users, appears to capture a similarly representative sample to a recent national household survey.

Around 604,500 to 704,500 Victorians continue to smoke on a regular basis in 2015. A continued, comprehensive tobacco control strategy that incorporates policy actions, education and cessation supports will be required if we are to reduce the burden of smoking
on the population by effecting further reductions in smoking prevalence in the shortest possible time period.