National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

Australian secondary school students' use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2011

3.1 How many Australian secondary school students were involved with smoking cigarettes in 2011?

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Table 3.1 shows the prevalence of smoking among Australian secondary school students in 2011 in each age and gender group.

Table 3.1: Lifetime experience and current cigarette smoking by secondary school students according to age and gender#, Australia, 2011

Never smoked
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
90.8
86.8
78.6
72.0
63.5
56.5
75.9
Females
94.1
88.0
82.4
73.1
61.8
59.2
77.4
Total
92.5
87.4
80.5
72.5
62.6
57.9
76.7

More than 100 cigarettes in lifetime
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
0.4
0.9
2.6
3.6
7.3
10.4
3.8
Females
0.1
0.6
2.3
3.3
6.1
8.2
3.2
Total
0.3
0.8
2.4
3.4
6.7
9.3
3.5

Past year
(%)
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
4.2
7.0
13.1
18.7
27.1
33.1
16.2
Females
3.7
7.8
12.8
19.8
28.4
29.4
16.3
Total
4.0
7.4
12.9
19.2
27.7
31.2
16.2

Past month
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
2.3
3.3
6.9
10.5
16.2
19.8
9.2
Females
2.0
4.1
6.1
9.9
15.6
17.2
8.7
Total
2.2
3.7
6.5
10.2
15.9
18.5
8.9
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Current smokers (smoked in past seven years)
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
1.4
2.6
5.5
8.1
11.7
15.8
7.0
Females
1.2
2.8
4.6
6.7
11.6
13.3
6.3
Total
1.3
2.7
5.1
7.4
11.6
14.5
6.7

Committed smokers (3+ days in past 7 days)
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
0.2
1.2
3.3
4.0
5.9
9.5
3.7
Females
0.4
1.5
2.7
3.8
6.8
7.7
3.6
Total
0.3
1.3
3.0
3.9
6.4
8.6
3.6

# Prevalence estimates are within  3.3% of the true population values (see section 2.6). See Appendix 4 for 95% confidenceinterval estimates for different percentages for each age and gender group.

Involvement with smoking becomes more common as adolescents progress through secondary school.

In 2011, around 77% of all secondary students across Australia had no experience with smoking. While the proportion of students who had never smoked decreased with increasing age, by age 17 more than half of the students surveyed had still never smoked.

Around four per cent of all students had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, which peaked at nine per cent among 17-year-olds.

The proportion of students smoking in the past 12 months increased from four per cent of 12-year-olds to 31% among 17-year-olds.

Students who smoked in the seven days preceding the survey are termed current smokers. The proportion of students who were current smokers increased from one per cent among 12-year-olds to 15% among 17-year-olds.

Students who had smoked on three or more days of the preceding seven were defined as committed smokers. Only four per cent of all students had smoked on three or more days of the previous seven, with this peaking at nine per cent among 17-year-olds.

There was little difference in the prevalence of smoking among male and female students at each age. The exception to this was among 12- and 14-year-olds who had never smoked, where significantly fewer males than females had never smoked. Additionally among all students, significantly more males than females indicated they had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their life.

Table 3.2 shows the smoking behaviours of current smokers.

Extrapolating the sample results to the Australian student population, it is estimated that around 102,000 students in Australia had smoked at least one cigarette in the preceding seven days.

At least half of current smokers in all age groups had smoked on more than one day of the preceding seven days.
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Out of all current smokers, the proportion who smoked on three or more of the preceding seven days increased from about 24% of 12-year-old current smokers to 60% among 14-year-olds. At 17 years of age, 59% of current smokers smoked on at least three of the preceding seven days. There was no significant association with age when students aged between 13 and 17 years were considered.

The proportion of current smokers who smoked on a daily basis increased from four per cent among 12-year-olds to 31% among 17-year-olds.

Within each age and for 12- to 17-year-olds, there was no statistically significant difference in the proportion of male and female current smokers who had smoked on one day, on three or more days or daily.

Table 3.2: Smoking behaviours of secondary school students who smoked in the week before the survey (current smokers), by age and gender, Australia, 2011

Smoked on only one day
12 yrs
13 yrs
14 yrs
15 yrs
16 yrs
17 yrs
Total
Males (%)
43.9
46.3
26.0
41.1
34.1
31.0
34.7
Females (%)
39.3
27.7
28.7
27.5
29.2
31.4
29.6
Total (%)
41.8
36.7
27.2
35.0
31.6
31.2
32.3

Committed smokers (3+ days in past 7 days)
12 yrs
13 yrs
14 yrs
15 yrs
16 yrs
17 yrs
Total
Males (%)
14.5
45.2
60.6
50.3
50.7
60.7
53.1
Females (%)
35.1
53.0
58.5
57.3
59.5
57.7
57.2
Total (%)
23.9
49.2
59.7
53.5
55.1
59.3
55.0

Daily smokers
12 yrs
13 yrs
14 yrs
15 yrs
16 yrs
17 yrs
Total
Males (%)
0.0
22.9
25.4
27.0
23.4
34.1
26.5
Females (%)
9.4
14.5
27.9
29.0
28.2
27.3
26.4
Total (%)
4.3
18.5
26.5
27.9
25.8
30.9
26.4

Mean number of
cigarettes per
week^ (se‡)
12 yrs
13 yrs
14 yrs
15 yrs
16 yrs
17 yrs
Total
Males (%)
3.1
14.8
21.1
20.2
21.1
25.4
17.6
(se)
(8.3)
(4.0)
(2.6)
(2.3)
(1.7)
(1.8)
(1.7)
Females (%)
3.3
9.0
17.4
19.8
21.6
22.5
15.6
(se)
(8.3)
(3.6)
(2.6)
(2.3)
(1.7)
(1.7)
(1.7)
Total
3.2
11.9
19.3
20.0
21.4
23.9
16.6
(se)
(5.9)
(2.7)
(1.9)
(1.6)
(1.2)
(1.2)
(1.2)
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Estimated number of current smokers^^
12 yrs
13 yrs
14 yrs
15 yrs
16 yrs
17 yrs
Total
Males
1954
3508
7620
10914
14495
14770
53261
Females
1637
3759
6277
9014
14758
13305
48750
Total
3591
7267
13897
19928
29253
28075
102011

‡ Standard error.
^ Students indicating they had smoked more than 40 cigarettes on any one day of preceding 7 days excluded from analysis. Mean scores are based on unweighted data.

^^ Estimated number of smokers is an extrapolation of the survey findings to the population level.

Among current smokers, the average number of cigarettes consumed each week increased with age to peak at about 24 cigarettes among 17-year-olds. The average number of cigarettes smoked per week by male and female current smokers was not significantly different at any age or for 12- to 17-year-olds combined.

Figure 3.1 shows the average number of cigarettes smoked per week by daily and non-daily current smokers at each age group. In these analyses students who reported smoking more than 40 cigarettes a day were excluded.

Figure 3.1: Average number of cigarettes consumed per week among daily smokers and non-daily current smokers at each age, Australia, 2011#


Average number of cigarettes consumed per week among daily smokers and non-daily current smokers at each age, Australia, 2011#Description of Figure 3.1

# Students indicating they had smoked more than 40 cigarettes on any day of the preceding seven excluded from analyses. Mean scores based on unweighted data. Mean scores adjusted for sex. Mean for 12-year-old daily smokers not shown as the number in this category was small and estimates would not be reliable.

Among non-daily current smokers, age was significantly associated with average number of cigarettes smoked per week (p<0.01) with the number of cigarettes consumed per week increasing from 3 at 12 years to 10 at 17 years.

Among daily current smokers, the number of cigarettes consumed per week also increased with age, from 36 cigarettes among 13-year-olds to 55 and 56 cigarettes among students aged 16- and 17-year-olds respectively. However, the age differences in the number of cigarettes smoked by daily smokers were not statistically significant.

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