Secondhand smoke caused an estimated 603,000 deaths globally in 2004, mainly from ischaemic heart disease, respiratory infections, asthma and lung cancer.1 Smoking bans in public places to protect people from the dangers of secondhand smoke are a core component of effective tobacco control programs.2 Smoke-free public places also increase the proportion of smokers making their homes smoke-free, with smoke-free homes also associated with increased quit attempts and the increased success of these attempts.3
Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke, because of both their respiratory physiology and their lack of control over their local environment, with secondhand smoke increasing their risk of SIDS, lower respiratory tract infections, otitis media and exacerbations of asthma. Children are most likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke in the home.4
The proportion of the population living in smoke-free homes has increased in all countries with available trend data. These trends are only partly explained by falling smoking prevalence, with explanations including changing social norms, mass-media campaigns about secondhand smoke, and smoking bans in public places.5 Smoke-free homes increased in Australia in the 1990s, a time of increasing publicity about the dangers of secondhand smoke and related litigation, accompanied by mass-media campaigns promoting smoke-free homes.6
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have more than double the smoking prevalence of other Australians, with higher Indigenous smoking prevalences in remote areas and among more disadvantaged Indigenous people.7–9 Questions about smoking in homes were asked in the last two national surveys in 2004 and 2008 of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and in the comparable National Health Surveys in 2004 and 2007, all conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged less than 15 years lived who in homes with smokers who usually smoked inside declined from 28% in 2004 to 21% in 2008.8,10 Much lower proportions of non-Indigenous children reported living in homes with smokers who smoked inside (9% in 2004 and 7% in 2007).8,10 This paper expands these limited analyses to better understand the social patterning and trends of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoke-free homes, and how some smoking behaviours are associated with smoke-free homes.