Objective: To describe the characteristics of self-described 'occasional' and 'social' Australian smokers.
Design: Analysis of a national cross-sectional survey of smoking patterns, conducted in Australia in 2004.
Setting and participants: Australian adults in 2004 who responded to a survey question about self-described smoking status.
Main outcome measures: Demographic characteristics, patterns of alcohol and tobacco use, smoking cessation attempts in the past year, and interest in cessation.
Results: Smokers who described themselves as 'occasional' and 'social' smokers comprised 29% of all smokers. A significant proportion of occasional and social smokers had been daily smokers, but the majority either believed that they had 'already quit' or had no intention of quitting smoking.
Conclusions: Self-ascribed occasional and social smokers potentially represent an important target group for cessation. These types of smokers may be more resistant to public health messages regarding cessation because they do not view their smoking behaviour as presenting a high risk.