Objective: To compare trends in smoking prevalence between 1996 and 2005 among Indigenous and non-Indigenous secondary students across Australia.
Methods: Representative random samples of secondary students aged 12-17 years completed self-report anonymous surveys. Questionnaires assessed any cigarette smoking in lifetime, and smoking in past month, week and on at least three of the previous seven days. Intention to smoke in the next 12 months was assessed on a 7-point scale. Students self-identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.
Results: Three to four per cent of students identified as being Indigenous at each survey. Smoking was more common among Indigenous than non-Indigenous students. Between 1996 and 2005, the proportion of smoking declined among both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. However, among 12-15 year olds, the rate of decline was different for the two groups. Among non-Indigenous students in this age group, prevalence decreased steadily between 1996 and 2005. Among Indigenous students, the decrease mainly occurred between 1999 and 2002. Smoking intention was higher for Indigenous than non-Indigenous students. The mean intention decreased between 1996 and 2005 among both student groups.
Conclusions: Smoking prevalence decreased among both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students between 1996 and 2005.
Implications: Reductions in Indigenous students’ tobacco use and intentions coincided with a period of increased tobacco control activity, suggesting that these activities may positively influence smoking behaviours.