• Open Access

Estimating tobacco consumption in remote Aboriginal communities using retail sales data: some challenges and opportunities

Authors


Correspondence to:
Dr David MacLaren, School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Rehabilitation Sciences, James Cook University, PO Box 6811, Cairns, Queensland 4870. Fax: (07) 4042 1658;
e-mail: david.maclaren@jcu.edu.au

Abstract

Objective: To describe and discuss challenges and opportunities encountered when estimating tobacco consumption in six remote Aboriginal communities using tobacco sales data from retail outlets.

Approach: We consider tobacco sales data collected from retail outlets selling tobacco to six Aboriginal communities in two similar but separate studies. Despite challenges – including: not all outlets provided data; data not uniform across outlets (sales and invoice data); change in format of data; personnel change or management restructures; and anomalies in data and changes in community populations – tobacco consumption was estimated and returned through project newsletters and community feedback sessions. Amounts of tobacco sold were returned using graphs in newsletters and pictures of items common to the community in community feedback sessions.

Conclusions: Despite inherent limitations of estimating tobacco consumption using tobacco sales data, returning the amount of tobacco sold to communities provided an opportunity to discuss tobacco consumption and provide a focal point for individual and community action. Using this method, however, may require large and sustained changes be observed over time to evaluate whether initiatives to reduce tobacco consumption have been effective.

Implications: Estimating tobacco consumption in remote Aboriginal communities using tobacco sales data from retail outlets requires careful consideration of many logistical, social, cultural and geographic challenges.

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