Aim: The aim of this study was to establish historical smoking prevalence rates among the working population of Australia. A clearer understanding of tobacco usage trends by occupation would be helpful to ensure the more effective targeting of tobacco control interventions in the workplace. Methods: Smoking data was extracted from the 1989-90, 1995 and 2001 National Health Surveys, which captured approximately 54 600, 53 800 and 26 900 Australians (response rates: 92% to 96%). Participants were limited to employed adults aged 18-64 years, with data stratified by job category and gender during the analysis. Results: Slightly less than one-third (31%) of Australian workers were smoking in 1989-90, a rate which declined to 25% in 1995 and then appeared to rise slightly to around 27% in 2001. A consistently higher proportion of males smoked tobacco when compared to females over all three surveys. By job category, tobacco use was most common among Labourers and Related Workers in 1989-90, Plant and Machine Operators and Drivers in 1995 and Intermediate Production and Transport Workers in 2001. The lowest smoking rates were consistently reported among Professionals. Conclusions: Overall, our study suggests that there were widespread variations in the smoking rates of working Australians between 1989 and 2001. Effective tobacco control strategies will clearly need to target blue collar employees, who continue to shoulder the main burden from tobacco-related disease.
Archives of Public Health Vol. 66, Issue 3, p. 125-136