Is roll-your-own tobacco the new ‘kiddy pack’?


Teen smoking rates are dropping… but there’s also a worrying increase in the popularity of roll-your-own tobacco amongst adolescents, warns the Cancer Council

The Council is calling for Governments to take action to protect adolescents from tobacco industry influence following the release of the data on May 31, World No Tobacco Day.

The data show that while adolescent smoking rates are dropping, amongst those Australian secondary school students who had smoked in the past month (about 7% of all students), the proportion regularly using roll-your-own (RYO) tobacco has increased from 24% to 29% in just three years (from 2014 to 2017).

Most students who smoked in the past month had used RYO tobacco at some time (73%).

The latest Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey, looking at smoking, alcohol and drug use by 12 to 17 year olds and conducted every three years by Cancer Council Victoria, found that 82% of teens had never smoked, up from 77% in 2011.

Anita Dessaix, Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Public Health Committee, said that drops in teenage smoking were encouraging and a tribute to Australia’s world-leading tobacco control measures, but warned Governments should be concerned about increasingly aggressive tactics used by the tobacco industry.

“Over the past seven years, tobacco companies have dramatically stepped up attempts to recruit a new cohort of younger smokers, with all companies introducing RYO products as part of the range of the most popular cigarette brands,” she said.

“Companies have been producing progressively smaller and smaller pouches of tobacco that are cheaper upfront, keeping the price low despite annual increases in tobacco taxes—and in the process making roll-your-own much more affordable and accessible to young people.” 

Cancer Council Victoria analysis shows that in 2010, no products on the market were smaller than 30 grams. By 2017, almost half the products on the market were 27, 25 or 20 grams, making many RYO products cheaper than the smallest available pack of cigarettes.

Over recent months, several 15 gram products have appeared in shops.

Ms Dessaix said ‘Kiddy packs’ of less than 20 cigarettes were banned decades ago by governments.

“Now is not the time for complacency. We call on governments to similarly protect young people from the tobacco industry’s sinister tactics and ensure that roll-your-own tobacco cannot be sold in pouches any smaller than 30 grams.”

The survey also found:

  • About 79,000 Australian secondary school students aged 12 to 17 were current smokers in 2017, down from 81,000 in 2014
  • 82% of secondary school students had never smoked, up from 77% in 2011
  • The proportion of students smoking at least once a month declined from 9% in 2011 to 7% in 2017
  • 48% of current smokers got cigarettes from friends
  • Among students smoking at least once a month, the proportion who had used RYO at least 20 times increased from 24% to 29%

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