Australia falls further behind in tobacco control every year

Posted on September 6, 2023 By Colin

AUSTRALIA'S SMOKING RATES have "essentially flatlined" according to Health Minister Mark Butler. The decline in smoking is 4-8 times slower in Australia than in New Zealand, Great Britain and the US over the last 4 years. Why?

Australia has the highest cigarette prices in the world, plain packaging and extensive smokefree laws.

However, Australia effectively bans the most successful quitting aid available: vaping nicotine. Vaping is readily and legally available in other western countries and is a major contributor to the accelerated decline in smoking

Australia’s official smoking rate declined by only 5% over the last 4 years (12.3% in 2018 and 11.7% in 2022). Accordin

In comparison, smoking declined 4-8x faster in the same 4-year period in other western countries where vaping is readily available:

It is not possible to make direct comparisons between smoking rates in different national surveys. However, one thing is for certain. The rate of decline is much faster in other similar high-income countries than it is in Australia.

A recent peer-reviewed modelling study predicted Australia will fall far short of reaching its National Tobacco Strategy target of 5% or less adult daily smoking by 2030. On the current trajectory, the smoking rate will be 7.5% for men in 2080 and 5% for women in 2064.

These statistics are more than just numbers. They are a matter of life and death

Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and illness in Australia, killing 21,000 smokers prematurely each year. Many smokers are simply unable to quit smoking or nicotine after repeated attempts and tobacco harm reduction offers an effective strategy to dramatically improve health.

Success in New Zealand

After vaping was legalised and regulated across the ditch in August 2020, the adult smoking rate fell by an unprecedented 33% over the next two years. The adult daily smoking rate was a remarkable 8% in 2022. No other significant tobacco control policy changes occurred in New Zealand during this period and vaping is considered a major contributor to this decline.

Not only has vaping declined rapidly in the pakeha (white) population, but also for other ethnic groups, except Pacific people. Currently 19.9% of Māori smoke compared to 43% of Indigenous Australians. This suggests a huge opportunity for Indigenous health if vaping was made readily available in Australia.

Across New Zealand, smoking is being replaced by vaping. Vaping is not risk-free but it is far safer than smoking and the transition represents a huge win for public health.

The Australian Tobacco Control turtle has become a global laughing stock. We need to accept the clear evidence that vaping improves public health and get with the program urgently. People are dying while we wait.

Data Sources


Current vaping and current smoking in the Australian population aged 14+ years: February 2018-March 2023
Prepared for: Department of Health and Aged Care
Roy Morgan survey, monthly surveys in major capital cities, age 14+,

New Zealand

New Zealand Annual Health Survey 2022
New Zealand Ministry of Health
Annual survey, age 15+

Great Britain

Adult smoking habits in the UK: Opinions and Lifestyle Survey 2022 | data file
Office for National Statistics, released 5 September 2022
Annual survey, aged 16+


National Health Interview Survey, Centers for Disease Control 2022
Annual survey 18+

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