Prevalence and Correlates of Tobacco Use in Young People Presenting to Australian Primary Mental Health Services

Sue M. Cotton, Sonia Sharmin, Caroline X. Gao, Ellie Brown , Jana M. Menssink, Debra Rickwood, Gillinder Bedi, Ian Hickie, Sarah E. Hetrick, Alexandra G. Parker, Helen Herrman, Nic Telford, Patrick D. McGorry, Kate M. Filia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


INTRODUCTION: In Australian youth primary mental health settings it is unclear as to the rates and correlates of tobacco use at service entry. AIMS AND METHODS: We aimed to delineate the prevalence and correlates of recent tobacco use (eg, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, etc) in the past 3 months in young people at their first presentation to primary mental health services as a function of age. Cross-sectional self-report measures were collected using a tablet device from young people presenting to one of five Australian primary mental health (headspace) services. Logistic regression assessed correlates of past 3-month tobacco use in adolescents (12-17 years) and young adults (18-25 years). RESULTS: Regular (at least monthly) tobacco use in the past 3 months was found in 23.4% (n = 247, N = 1055) of the sample. Increasing age (odds ratio [OR] =1.47 per year; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.15 to 1.89), male sex (OR = 1.98; 95% CI: 1.02 to 3.83), being in a relationship (OR = 1.96; 95% CI: 1.01 to 3.82), and poorer functioning (OR = 0.95 per unit Social and Occupational Functioning Assessment Scale increase; 95% CI: 0.91 to 0.99) predicted regular tobacco use in adolescents, but not in young adults. Living in a regional location (OR = 2.10; 95% CI: 1.40 to 3.13) and not studying (OR = 0.47; 95% CI: 0.31 to 0.73) predicted tobacco use in young adults. Having a diagnosed mental illness other than depression and/or anxiety predicted tobacco use in both groups (adolescents OR = 2.49; 95% CI: 1.26 to 4.94; young adults OR = 1.80; 95% CI: 1.13 to 2.89). CONCLUSIONS: Nearly a quarter of young people with mental illness are using tobacco, supporting the need for early intervention approaches. Adapting treatment targets by age could improve the impact of interventions in adolescents versus young adults. Poor functioning and lack of engagement in education were associated with tobacco use in both age groups, respectively; however, more research is needed to determine the direction of these relationships. IMPLICATIONS: Young people with mental illness have a high prevalence of recent tobacco use and this is evident when they first present to youth primary mental health services. Youth-oriented mental health settings may provide a unique window for tobacco use prevention and early intervention to reduce smoking in people with mental illness, a priority population. Age-specific targeted approaches might be needed in adolescents and young adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)682-691
Number of pages10
JournalNicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


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