National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

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

3.4 How do students see themselves in relation to smoking?

prev pageTOC |next page

Table of contents

Students were asked to choose the label that described their smoking behaviours from the following: non-smoker, ex-smoker, occasional smoker, light smoker or heavy smoker. The labels that males and female students chose to describe their smoking behaviours are presented in Table 3.9, by age.

Table 3.9: Self-description of smoking status by age and gender for all students surveyed, Australia, 2011

Heavy smoker
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
0.3
0.5
1.7
1.9
2.2
3.7
1.6
Females
0.3
0.5
1.0
1.5
1.9
2.1
1.2
Total
0.3
0.5
1.3
1.7
2.1
2.9
1.4

Light smoker
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
0.2
0.9
1.6
2.2
3.6
4.3
2.0
Females
0.1
0.9
1.9
1.8
3.9
4.9
2.1
Total
0.1
0.9
1.7
2.0
3.7
4.6
2.0

Occasional smoker
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
1.1
1.2
2.5
5.9
7.6
9.2
4.3
Females
1.3
2.2
3.2
6.2
8.7
9.4
4.9
Total
1.2
1.7
2.8
6.0
8.2
9.3
4.6

Ex-smoker
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
2.0
1.9
3.1
2.6
3.8
3.8
2.8
Females
0.4
1.8
2.7
3.3
2.9
2.3
2.2
Total
1.2
1.8
2.9
3.0
3.3
3.0
2.5

Non-smoker
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
96.4
95.5
91.2
87.4
82.8
79.0
89.4
Females
97.9
94.6
91.2
87.2
82.6
81.3
89.5
Total
97.1
95.1
91.2
87.3
82.7
80.2
89.5
At each age, most students saw themselves as non-smokers with around 90% of all students choosing this label to describe themselves in relation to smoking.
Top of page
Five per cent of all students surveyed described themselves as occasional smokers, and around two per cent referred to themselves as light smokers.

Table 3.10: Percentage of students in each self-described smoking status category indicating they had been smoking in each time period and average number of cigarettes smoked per week by current smokers in each group, Australia, 2011

Smoking status
Heavy smoker
(n=386)
Light smoker
(n=569)
Occasional smoker
(n=1,261)
Ex-smoker
(n=666)
Non-smoker
(n=21,861)
Smoked 100+ cigarettes
89.9%
55.5%
13.6%
17.0%
0.1%
Smoked in past 12 months
96.0%
96.9%
98.1%
73.7%
7.2%
Smoked in past 4 weeks
94.7%
92.1%
74.8%
26.3%
1.8%
Smoked in past 7 days
93.3%
85.9%
53.9%
15.5%
0.9%
Smoked 3 days (past week)
86.0%
69.1
18.4%
3.9%
0.1%

Among current smokers+ - average number of cigarettes smoked/week^
Heavy smoker
(n=386)
]Light smoker
(n=569)
Occasional smoker
(n=1,261)
Ex-smoker
(n=666)
Non-smoker
(n=21,861)
mean
56.6
23.2
7.5
5.8
4.6
(se)
(1.2)
(1.0)
(0.9)
(2.3)
(1.5)

+ Current smokers: students who smoked on any of the past seven days.
^ Students indicating they had smoked more than 40 cigarettes on any one day of preceding 7 days excluded from analysis. Means are based on unweighted data.

Table 3.10 examines the relationship between the labels students use to describe their smoking status and actual smoking behaviours. There is a strong relationship between smoking involvement and self-described smoking status.

Nearly all students who described themselves as some sort of smoker (heavy, light or occasional) had smoked in the previous 12 months. Over 90% of heavy and light smokers had smoked in the past four weeks and over 85% smoked in the seven days prior to the survey.

Of occasional smokers, a greater proportion had smoked in the four weeks before the survey (75%) than in the seven days prior to the survey (54%), reflecting the irregularity of their smoking.

Sixteen per cent of ex-smokers indicated that they had smoked on one of the seven days prior to the survey. This might reflect the recency of their decision to no longer smoke, or it might reflect that some students who have stopped smoking regularly (and hence the ex-smoker label) still have the occasional cigarette.

Students choosing the non-smoking label had limited experience with tobacco.

Current smokers who described themselves as heavy smokers consumed twice the number of cigarettes per week (mean=57) than current smokers who referred to themselves as light smokers (mean=23 cigarettes).

prev pageTOC |next page