Posted 2 Jun, 2023
New data shows Australian teen smoking increasing for the first time in 25 years, against a backdrop of rising e-cigarette use
Friday 2 June, 2023
Shocking new data analysed by Cancer Council Victoria’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer has revealed a deeply concerning picture of steeply increasing teen smoking, which is rising in tandem with vaping.
The data indicates a 3-fold increase in current tobacco smoking by 14-17-year-olds in just four years, from 2.1% in 2018 to 6.7% in 2022. Preliminary data from the first quarter of 2023 shows 12.8% of 14-17 year olds surveyed reported smoking. Data on e-cigarette use revealed fewer than 1% of 14-17-year-olds reported vaping in 2018. In 2022 that figure sat at 11.8% and 14.5% in early 2023*.
Professor Sarah Durkin, Acting Head of the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, and lead researcher on the report, described her concern. “This is the first time we’ve seen an increase in teen smoking since the early- to mid-1990s. The earlier a person starts experimenting with cigarettes the greater their likelihood of becoming a regular, long-term user. And we know cigarettes kill up to two in three long-term users.”
The total number of people currently smoking or vaping in Australia over the past four years has risen from 12.8% in 2018 to 16.5% in 2022. Dual use of both e-cigarettes and tobacco has increased markedly across all age groups, but increased most steeply among those aged under 35 years. The percentage of 14-17 year olds both smoking and vaping has increased from 0.3% in 2018 to 4.4% in 2022.
Public health physician and leading Australian epidemiologist, Professor Emily Banks along with her team at ANU’s National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, has recently published an extensive review of the health effects of vaping - the largest and most comprehensive of its kind globally. Their systematic review of cohort studies tracking young people over several years found that young people who vape are three times as likely to subsequently take up smoking.
Commenting on the new data, Professor Banks said, “The link between vaping and smoking uptake in cohort studies is strong and consistent. One of the biggest worries in public health is that widespread vaping will reverse our amazing progress in reducing smoking in children and adolescents in Australia. The new findings showing trends of rising smoking in 14-17 year olds for the first time in more than two decades, alongside increasing vaping, are alarming and exactly what we didn’t want to see.”
“Any level of smoking among young people is extremely concerning. Even very low levels of smoking significantly increase the risk of cancer and heart disease,” Professor Banks added.
Professor Tanya Buchanan, CEO Cancer Council Australia said, “This data shows the tragic effects of many years of predatory marketing by vaping suppliers and a resurgent tobacco industry, with blatant disregard for the health, safety and wellbeing of Australians. The increase in smoking by young people seems to correlate with the rise in availability of vaping products.”
“We are relieved the Australian Government and all states and territories have agreed to take strong action on vaping and smoking: in particular, to stop the importation and supply of e-cigarette products other than those prescribed to people trying to quit smoking. Proposed ongoing reform to cigarettes include expanding graphic health warnings and restricting product additives that mask the true harm of smoking. It is clear we are now facing a public health emergency. We have a rapidly closing window of opportunity before young Australians’ vaping and smoking behaviours become more entrenched. And we urge all Governments to act now.”
Media Contact Prue Gildea, Senior Media Advisor, Cancer Council Victoria - (03) 9514 6577 / firstname.lastname@example.org
For support to stop vaping or smoking contact Quitline online at quit.org.au or call 13 7848.
Live chat, text, request a call back and Facebook Messenger options are available.
Roy Morgan Single Source Survey has been running on a continuous basis since 1988 and is the largest survey in Australia collecting data on smoking and vaping. This latest report is based on data between 2018 and early 2023 from people aged 14 years and over living in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide – representing 64% of the Australian population.
Exposure Draft for new Public Health (Tobacco and Other Products) legislation was recently released for consultation.
*Please note the 2023 figures reflect 3 months of data - from January to March 2023.