1.2 Overview of major Australian data sets

Last updated: November 2015
Suggested citation: Greenhalgh, EM, Bayly, M, & Winstanley, MH. 1.2 Overview of major Australian data sets. In Scollo, MM and Winstanley, MH [editors]. Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2015. Available from http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-1-prevalence/1-2-overview-of-major-australian-data-sets

Several series of surveys investigating adult smoking behaviour in Australia have been undertaken in recent decades, providing a wealth of information. The most comprehensive are:

  • the National Health Surveys, conducted approximately five-yearly (and more recently three-yearly) by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with the first including routine questionsi on smoking behaviour undertaken in 1989–19901–6
  • the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys, results of which are published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, commencing in 1985 and conducted every two to three years7–15
  • surveys undertaken by research groups under the auspices of Cancer Council Victoria (formerly the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria) at three-yearly intervals, from 1974 to 1998.16–25 Since 2001, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey has assessed smoking status using a consistent methodology considered similar to that of Cancer Council Victoria surveys26 Additional analysisii of both of these data sources has produced the most consistently collected and detailed trends data available for Australia, spanning the years from 1980 to 2013.
  • the National Tobacco Survey, which collects information annually on tobacco use and behaviours among Australian teenagers and adults on behalf of the Department of Health and Ageing. It was first commissioned in 1997 as a tool to evaluate the National Tobacco Campaign but was also used for several years to monitor the impact of other tobacco policy initiatives.27 Results of this survey have not been published for some time.

Discussion in this chapter will draw on these and other sources. In most cases the latest estimates of smoking prevalence and analysis of historical trends are drawn from National Drug Strategy Household Survey data (as described in Footnote ii).

Changes in the volume of tobacco consumed are discussed in Chapter 2.

i A survey undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1977 also provides data on smoking behaviour from this period. (Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4380.0 Alcohol and tobacco consumption patterns, February 1977. Canberra: ABS, 1977.)

ii Prevalence data from 1980 to 1998 presented in section 1.3 originate from previously unpublished analyses undertaken by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, within Cancer Council Victoria, excluding individuals aged under 18 years and weighting the data sets to 2001 census data based on five standard categories of age and sex. Information presented here therefore differs slightly from that published in prior journal articles describing Australian adult prevalence of smoking in these years. Survey data for 1995–2013 presented in most sections are taken from the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys, undertaken by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and analysed by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer. This data is weighted to the Australian population appropriate for each survey year. Because there are some inconsistencies between the two surveys in data collection methods, sample size, and weighting procedures, only data from 2001 onward is included in longitudinal analysis.

Notes on methodology

Cancer Council Victoria data were collected as part of an omnibus survey conducted by the same national market research company in each survey year. A random sample of households across Australia was selected for surveying and interviewers conducted face to face surveys with respondents aged 14+ years in their home. The original analyses of data from these surveys were based on data from respondents aged 16 and over. The National Drug Strategy Household Survey is also a survey of a random sample of men and women aged 14+ years across Australia, and is conducted by a market research company. The 2010 and 2013 surveys consisted solely of a self-completion drop-and-collect method. In 2004 and 2007, computer-assisted telephone interviews were used in addition to the drop-and-collect survey, and prior to 2001, face-to-face interviews were also used. Data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey have also been re-analysed using the following source files:

- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 1995 (computer file). Canberra: Australian Social Science Data Archive, The Australian National University, 1995.

- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 1998 (computer file). Canberra: Australian Social Science Data Archive, The Australian National University, 1998.

- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2001 (computer file). Canberra: Australian Social Science Data Archive, The Australian National University, 2001.

- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2004, (computer file). Canberra: Australian Social Science Data Archives, The Australian National University, 2005.

- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2007: First Results. (Computer File). Canberra: Australian Social Science Data Archive, The Australian National University, 2008. 

- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2010 (computer file). Canberra: Australian Data Archive, The Australian National University, 2011. 

- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 2013 [computer file], 2015, Australian Data Archive, The Australian National University: Canberra.

The two surveys use different questions to define 'current' smoking. In Cancer Council Victoria surveys, the question for assessing smoking status (which remained unchanged for the duration of the survey period) asked respondents to classify themselves as a current smoker of cigarettes or cigars or pipes, an ex-smoker of any tobacco product, or a never smoker. In the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, smoking status is ascertained since 2001 by asking respondents if they have ever tried a cigarette or smoked a full cigarette, and then inquiring of respondents who say ‘yes’, whether they have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. Respondents indicating that they have smoked more than 100 cigarettes are asked: ‘How often do you now smoke cigarettes, pipes, or other tobacco products?’ and are asked to select one of the following responses: ‘daily’, ‘at least weekly’, ‘less often than weekly’, ‘not at all but I have smoked in the past 12 months’, or ‘not at all and I have not smoked in the past 12 months’. Respondents indicating that they smoke ‘daily’ or ‘at least weekly’ are classified as current smokers. A calibration study 24 of the two different approaches has found that they produced the same estimates of smoking prevalence, indicating that these data sets can reasonably be combined to analyse trends.

References

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