Two new reports released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that regular alcohol consumption is socially approved by 60% of adult Australians.
Around 40% approve of regular tobacco smoking, while 26% thought regular marijuana use by adults was acceptable.
In contrast, very few (less than 5% in most cases) approved of the regular use of other illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, Ecstasy and amphetamines.
Australians are also much more likely to link drug 'problems' with illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine rather than tobacco or alcohol.
The reports, 1998 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: detailed findings and 1998 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: State and Territory Results, follow earlier results published by the Institute last year, but extend to analyses of the social and health effects of drug use.
The reports show that around 24% of Australians drink either daily or on most days of the week, while 22% smoke every day or on most days.
However, about 74% of current smokers had made some effort to quit smoking in the past 12 months. Almost 40% of non-smokers or former smokers avoided places where they could be exposed to other people's cigarette smoke. About 2 out of 5 Australians correctly recognised that tobacco was the greatest cause of drug-related deaths in Australia.
Co-author of State and Territory Results, Gerard Fitzsimmons, said that around 75% of people who smoke daily started before they were 20 years of age.
'The proportion of people who smoke regularly was highest among the 20-29-year-olds at 32%,' Mr Fitzsimmons said.
Alcohol is the second major cause of drug-related deaths. The ACT had the highest proportion of regular drinkers (at least once a week) at 57%, with Tasmania the lowest at 46%.
More than 9 out of 10 people who usually drank three or more drinks in one session said they limited the number of drinks in an evening-or refused an alcoholic drink when they did not want it.
Across Australia, there was consistent support for tougher penalties against: drunk drivers, supplying cigarettes to people under age, and for the sale and supply of drugs such as heroin, amphetamines and cocaine.