Objective To examine changes in age of tobacco experimentation and progression to daily smoking in men and women between birth cohorts that differ in exposure to public health programmes that aim to discourage smoking.
Design Analysis of national cross-sectional household surveys of smoking patterns, conducted in Australia in 2001 and 2004.
Setting and participants Australian adults aged 22 years and over in 2001 and 2004 who responded to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey.
Main outcome measures Prevalence of tobacco experimentation and progression to daily smoking by age 21, estimated by sex and birth cohort. Odds of tobacco experimentation and progression to daily smoking by age 21 estimated by sex for each birth cohort, with corrections for the effects of ‘forward telescoping’ in recalling age of use.
Results Sex differences in smoking prevalence are smaller in younger birth cohorts. Tobacco experimentation has increased among women, while progression to daily smoking has decreased among men.
Conclusions Sex differences in smoking experimentation and progression to daily smoking have decreased in younger birth cohorts. However, a significant proportion of younger males and females continue to experiment with tobacco and become daily smokers despite strong public health efforts to discourage smoking. More research is needed to determine why sex differences in smoking behaviour are not evident in younger birth cohorts.