Smoking prevalence and consumption in Victoria: key findings from the 1998–2005 population surveys

Germain D, Wakefield M, Siahpush M, Durkin S

CBRC Research Paper Series No. 22

Since 1998, there has been a significant overall linear decline in regular smoking prevalence across the years, decreasing to 18.5% in 2005. Although in 2005 there was a tendency for a higher percentage of males to regularly smoke than females (20.2% compared with 16.9%, respectively), trends indicate that regular smoking prevalence among males declined significantly over this period, while a trend toward a significant decline existed among females.

In 2005, older Victorians (aged 50 years or more) were less likely to be regular smokers (11.5%) than were younger Victorians (aged 18-29 years (26.0%); and aged 30-49 years (21.1%)). Trends indicate that smoking rates among younger (aged 18-29 years) Victorians have remained steady across the years 1998 to 2005, while over this period there was a significant decline in smoking rates among Victorians aged 30-49 years and a trend toward a significant decline in smoking among those aged 50 years or more.

In 2005, regular smoking prevalence was significantly lower among those with a tertiary qualification (12.9%), compared with those who had a Year 12/some tertiary education (21.2%), and those who had completed their education up to Year 11 or less (22.3%). Trends from 1998 to 2005 indicate that smoking rates among Victorians with different education levels have remained relatively consistent across this period.

Victorians living in areas with high levels of advantage and low levels of disadvantage (the top 24% for Victoria on a scale of relative socio-economic advantage/disadvantage) were significantly less likely to be a regular smoker (13.2%) compared with those living in less advantaged areas (22.2% for those living in areas ranked 75% or below). Regular smoking rates significantly declined for the period 1998 to 2005 for this higher socio-economic group, while there was a trend toward a significant decline in smoking among those in the lower socio-economic group.

The proportion of heavy smokers (25 or more cigarettes/day) among Victorian adults declined significantly across the period 1998 to 2005 (down to 16% in 2005), while over this period there was a trend toward a significant increase in the proportion of light smokers (less than 15 cigarettes per day) (up to 51% in 2005). Similarly, cigarette consumption declined significantly among regular smokers (daily/weekly smokers) across the period 1998 to 2005, from a high of 17.6 cigs per day in 1999, down to 14.4 cigs per day in 2005. Results also indicate a trend toward a decline in consumption among daily smokers, down to 15.1 cigs per day in 2005 from a high of 17.9 cigs in 1998.

Overall, findings indicate that smoking prevalence has continued its decline since 1998. Although younger Victorians, males and those with a lower level of education remain the most likely to smoke regularly, trends indicate smoking rates among these Victorians have also declined consistently over the years.