Background: Over the past decade, there have been substantial changes in landline and mobile phone ownership, with a substantial increase in the proportion of mobile-only households. Estimates of daily smoking rates for the mobile phone only (MPO) population have been found to be substantially higher than the rest of the population and telephone surveys that use a dual sampling frame (landline and mobile phones) are now considered best practice. Smoking is seen as an undesirable behaviour; measuring such behaviours using an interviewer may lead to lower estimates when using telephone based surveys compared to self-administered approaches. This study aims to assess whether higher daily smoking estimates observed for the mobile phone only population can be explained by administrative features of surveys, after accounting for differences in the phone ownership population groups.
Methods: Data on New South Wales (NSW) residents aged 18 years or older from the NSW Population Health Survey (PHS), a telephone survey, and the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS), a self-administered survey, were combined, with weights adjusted to match the 2013 population. Design-adjusted prevalence estimates and odds ratios were calculated using survey analysis procedures available in SAS 9.4.
Results: Both the PHS and NDSHS gave the same estimates for daily smoking (12%) and similar estimates for MPO users (20% and 18% respectively). Pooled data showed that daily smoking was 19% for MPO users, compared to 10% for dual phone owners, and 12% for landline phone only users. Prevalence estimates for MPO users across both surveys were consistently higher than other phone ownership groups. Differences in estimates for the MPO population compared to other phone ownership groups persisted even after adjustment for the mode of collection and demographic factors.
Conclusions: Daily smoking rates were consistently higher for the mobile phone only population and this was not driven by the mode of survey collection. This supports the assertion that the use of a dual sampling frame addresses coverage issues that would otherwise be present in telephone surveys that only made use of a landline sampling frame.