Notes on the data: Health risk factors

Estimated female population, aged 18 years and over, who were current smokers, 2011-12


Policy context:  Tobacco smoking is recognised as the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in Australia [1]. It is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, asthma, renal disease and eye disease [2]. In 2011-12, the Australian Health Survey estimated that approximately 8 million Australian adults aged 18 years and over had smoked at some time in their lives; and 3.1 million were current smokers, with the vast majority (90%) of these people smoking daily [1]. The negative effects of passive smoking indicate that the risks to health of smoking affect more than just the smoker. Passive smoking increases the risk of heart disease, asthma, and some cancers. It may also increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and may predispose children to allergic sensitisation [3]. Rates of smoking differ between males and females and across age groups; and between 2001 and 2011-12, overall rates of smoking decreased for both males and females. In 2011-12, 20.4% of males and 16.3% of females aged 18 years and over were current smokers [4].


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Australian Health Survey: Health service usage and health related actions, 2011-12. (ABS Cat. no. 4364.0.55.002). Canberra: ABS; 2013.
  2. Australian Medical Association (AMA). Tobacco smoking - Position statement, November 2005 [Internet]. [cited 2014 Jul 29]. Available from:
  3. National Public Health Partnership (NPHP). National response to passive smoking in enclosed places and workplaces: a background paper. Canberra: NPHP; 2000.
  4. ABS. Gender Indicators, Australia. (ABS Cat. no. 4125.0). Canberra: ABS; 2013.

Notes:  In the absence of data from administrative data sets, estimates are provided for certain chronic diseases and conditions and health risk factors from the 2011–12 Australian Health Survey (AHS), conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Estimates at the Population Health Area (PHA), Local Government Area (LGA) and Primary Health Network (PHN) level are modelled estimates and were produced at the PHA level by the ABS, as described below.

Estimates for Quintiles and Remoteness Areas are direct estimates from the 2011–12 Australian Health Survey (AHS), extracted using the ABS Survey TableBuilder, and standardised using the average of the ABS Estimated Resident Population, 30 June 2011 and 30 June 2012.

Users of these modelled estimates should note that they do not represent data collected in administrative or other data sets. As such, they should be used with caution, and treated as indicative of the likely social dimensions present in an area with these demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

The numbers are estimates for an area, not measured events as are, for example, death statistics. As such, they should be viewed as a tool that, when used in conjunction with local area knowledge and taking into consideration the prediction reliability, can provide useful information that can assist with decision making for small geographic regions. Of particular note is that the true value of the published estimates is also likely to vary within a range of values as shown by the upper and lower limits published in the data (xls) and viewable in the bar chart in the single map atlases.

What the modelled estimates do achieve, however, is to summarise the various demographic, socioeconomic and administrative information available for an area in a way that indicates the expected level of each health indicator for an area with those characteristics. In the absence of accurate, localised information about the health indicator, such predictions can usefully contribute to policy and program development, service planning and other decision-making processes that require an indication of the geographic distribution of the health indicator.

The AHS' response rate of around 85% provides a high level of coverage across the population; however, the response rate among some groups, e.g., those living in the most disadvantaged areas, is lower than among those in less disadvantaged areas. Although the sample includes the majority of people living in households in private dwellings, it excludes those living in the most remote areas of Australia; whereas these areas comprise less than 3% of the total population, Aboriginal people comprise up to one third of the population in these areas. This and other limitations of the method mean that estimates have not been published for PHAs with populations under 1,000, or with a high proportion of their population in:

  1. non-private dwellings (hospitals, gaols, nursing homes - and also excludes members of the armed forces);
  2. in Very Remote areas;
  3. in discrete Aboriginal communities; and
  4. where the relative root mean square errors (RRMSEs) on the estimates was 1 or more (estimate replaced with ≠)


  1. Estimates with RRMSEs from 0.25 and to 0.50 have been marked (~) to indicate that they should be used with caution; and those greater than 0.50 but less than 1 are marked (~~) to indicate that the estimate is considered too unreliable for general use.
  2. For the Primary Health Network (PHN) data, differences between the PHN totals and the sum of LGAs within PHNs result from the use of different concordances.

Indicator detail

The data on which the estimates are based are self-reported data, reported to interviewers in the 2011-12 AHS. A current smoker is an adult who reported at the time of interview that they smoked manufactured (packet) cigarettes, roll-your-own cigarettes, cigars, and/or pipes at least once per week. It excludes chewing tobacco and smoking of non-tobacco products. As part of the AHS, respondents aged 15 years and over were asked to describe their smoking status at the time of interview as:

  1. current smokers: daily, weekly, other;
  2. ex-smokers;
  3. never smoked (those who had never smoked 100 cigarettes, nor pipes, cigars or other tobacco products at least 20 times, in their lifetime).

For the indicator in this atlas, data are for respondents aged 18 years and over who responded that they were “a current, daily or at least once weekly smoker”.


Numerator:  Estimated number of females aged 18 years and over who reported being a current, daily or at least once weekly smoker


Denominator:  Female population aged 18 years and over


Detail of analysis:  Indirectly age-standardised rate per 100 females (aged 18 years and over); and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard



PHA, LGA & PHN: Compiled by PHIDU based on modelled estimates from the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey, ABS (unpublished); and the average of the ABS Estimated Resident Population, 30 June 2011 and 30 June 2012, based on the Australian standard.

Quintiles & Remoteness: Compiled by PHIDU based on direct estimates from the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey, ABS Survey TableBuilder; and standardised using the average of the ABS Estimated Resident Population, 30 June 2011 and 30 June 2012.


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