Smoking prevalence & consumption in Victoria: key findings from the 1998-2010 population surveys

By Linda Hayes, Sarah Durkin, Melanie Wakefield

CBRC Research Paper Series No. 42


Since the telephone survey began in 1998, significant decreases in the prevalence of regular smoking have been observed among almost all demographic groups studied, including males and females, adults aged 18 to 29 years, 30 to 49 years and 50 plus, adults educated up to Year 12, those educated to tertiary level or above, adults living in areas of low, mid and high disadvantage and Melbourne residents.

Significant linear reductions in the average number of cigarettes smoked each day by both daily and regular smokers and a significant decrease in the proportion of heavy smokers have also been observed over the 13 years during which the survey has been carried out.

Between 2009 and 2010, there was a significant increase in the proportion of non-smokers in the Victorian population. Trends towards declines in daily smoking and irregular smoking among Victorian adults and a trend towards a decrease in heavy smoking were also observed.

Also the 2010 survey recorded the highest proportions of never and non-smokers and the lowest proportions of regular and daily smokers since the telephone survey began in 1998. For the overall adult population, there was no significant difference in the rate at which regular or daily smoking declined across the earlier or later time periods when the survey was conducted, (1998 to 2004 compared to 2005 to 2010).

However, the rate of decline in the prevalence of smoking varied between different demographic groups across these two periods of tobacco control activity. The rate of decline in regular smoking was greater among Victorians living in the most disadvantaged areas of the State and younger adults (aged 18 to 29 years) between 2005 and 2010.

There was also evidence that the rate of decrease in the prevalence of regular smoking accelerated for these two groups compared to the earlier period in which the survey was undertaken. In conclusion, tobacco control efforts implemented over the latter half of the past decade appear to have contributed to a continuing decline in regular smoking among Victorian adults.

Between 2005 and 2010, tobacco control efforts appear to have impacted most on the smoking behaviours of young adults and adults living in the most disadvantaged areas of Victoria. Nonetheless, in 2010, the prevalence of regular smoking among adults from these demographic groups remains higher in comparison to older and more advantaged Victorians.