The following data is from a range of different studies from different years and geographical locations. Different research methods have been used therefore, meaningful comparisons cannot be made between the different groups.
According to the WA Health and Wellbeing Surveillance System, 11.5% of adults in Western Australia were daily or occasional smokers in 2018.
People living with a mental illness
Smoking rates are much higher in people experiencing mental illness compared to the general population. People experiencing mental illness tend to smoke more cigarettes per day, have higher levels of nicotine dependence, report lower self-efficacy and experience disproportionate health and financial burden from smoking.
Tobacco smoke can even mask the effects of some medications. This means that people living with a mental illness often need to take high dosages of these medications to increase their effectiveness.
There is a common belief that smoking is a way to relieve or manage depression, anxiety and/or stress. However, research has shown that within six weeks of quitting, mental health, mood, and quality of life improves. Visit smoking and mental health for more information or check out different ways to quit.
Do you work in the health sector?
Although the presence of mental illness can make quit attempts more challenging, tailored support can help. Integrating cessation support such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), pharmacotherapies and referral to Quitline into routine health care can significantly increase an individual’s likelihood of successfully quitting. Click through to find out more about evidence-based cessation.
Unfortunately, there is very limited data on the health of LGBTQI+ people due to a lack of population surveys with diverse sex, gender and sexual orientation questions.
According to the Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia report (2016), approximately 18% of people identifying as homosexual or bisexual reported smoking daily*.
Common reasons LGBTQI+ people list for taking up smoking include the additional and unique stresses they may be forced to deal with, such as social stigma, discrimination, lack of acceptance by loved ones, and physical and non-physical abuse. LGBTQI+ people also experience higher rates of mental illness than the national average.
READ: Why Are Smoking Rates Higher in the LGBTQI+ Community.
People in regional WA
People who live in rural and remote areas are more likely to smoke than people living in major cities. In Western Australia, according to the WA Health and Wellbeing Surveillance Survey (2014), approximately 16% of the regional population smoke, compared to 12% in the metropolitan area. Higher rates of smoking-related diseases, such as arthritis, asthma, COPD, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are also reported among this population.
Smoking rates vary across the regions in WA:
People living in regional areas are more likely to experience psychological distress and often note they smoke because they feel it relieves stress and boredom. Access to health care and support services in the community can be limited, which reduces the availability of stop-smoking services. If you’re living regionally, check out our Quit Toolkit for ways to quit online or over the phone.
People in low socioeconomic areas
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
According to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (2014-15), around 39% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years and over smoke daily. While this has decreased slightly over time it remains a lot higher than smoking rates among the general population.
Tobacco use contributes greatly to the 10 year life expectancy gap between Aboriginal* and non-Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people have worse health outcomes and are almost twice as likely to develop lung cancer than non-Aboriginal people.
Although some Aboriginal people would like to reduce or stop smoking, many are reluctant to access services or support. For support, call Quitline on 13 7848 and ask to speak to an Aboriginal Quitline Counsellor. You can also find out about resources from other organisations here.
*Within Western Australia, the term Aboriginal people is used in preference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in recognition that Aboriginal people are the original inhabitants of Western Australia. No disrespect is intended to Torres Strait Islander colleagues and community.
People in prison
In 2018, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found roughly 75% of Australian people in prison were current smokers, with 1 in 14 taking up smoking while incarcerated. Smoking is common in populations that are over-represented in prisons, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people experiencing homelessness, people living with mental illness, people experiencing alcohol and other drug dependence and those living in low socioeconomic areas.
In 2012, up to 46% of current smokers entering prison had a desire to quit and as many as 35% of dischargees attempted to quit while in prison. Find out more about our work in this space in the Community Services section.
People experiencing homelessness
Up to 86% of people experiencing homelessness are smokers, with many reporting that they smoke to relieve symptoms of mental illness, boredom and stress. People experiencing homelessness are more likely to smoke discarded cigarette butts or to share cigarettes in order to save money. This increases the risk of contracting infectious diseases, along with the other known risks associated with smoking.
Despite being motivated to quit smoking, the success rates remain low due to the many unique social and environmental barriers faced by homeless people. Find out more about our work in this space in the Community Services section.
People affected by alcohol and other drug use
Smoking rates among people who are experiencing alcohol and other drug dependence is much higher than the general population. Up to 50% of people experiencing alcohol dependence and 74% of those experiencing dependence on other drugs smoke daily.
People experiencing alcohol and other drug dependence are also more likely to die prematurely from a smoking-related disease than from their alcohol and drug use.
People who are experiencing alcohol and other drug dependence are motivated to quit smoking, but they are not always offered help to do so. Health professionals’ misconceptions about their clients’ ability to deal with stress and fears of undermining recovery from other drugs can be barriers to providing smoking cessation support. However, to increase success rates overall, people should be treated for all drug dependencies concurrently.
You can find out more about evidence-based cessation here.
Make Smoking History (MSH) works with health and community services to reach groups of people experiencing higher smoking rates. By providing non-judgemental, comprehensive and tailored support in trusted environments, we can reduce the impact that tobacco use has on these priority populations.
Find out more about how your community or health service can become involved in the Make Smoking History Program here.