• Open Access

Maternal smoking during pregnancy among Aboriginal women in New South Wales is linked to social gradient


Correspondence to: Prof. Adrian Bauman, Prevention Research Collaboration, Level 2, Medical Foundation Building K25, University of Sydney, Camperdown NSW 2006; e-mail: adrianb@health.usyd.edu.au


Objective: Social gradients in Aboriginal health are seldom explored. This study describes social gradients and trends in smoking during pregnancy among Aboriginal mothers in NSW.

Methods: This was a secondary analysis of the NSW Midwives Data Collection (MDC) 1994–2007, covering all births in NSW. Analyses examined associations between socio-demographic characteristics and smoking during pregnancy.

Results: Data from 1,214,206 pregnant women showed that 17.4% smoked during pregnancy. The rate of smoking during pregnancy among all NSW women declined from 22.3% in 1994 to 12.8% in 2007; the rate among Aboriginal women remained high, declining from 61.4% in 1994 to 50.2% in 2007. Smoking was substantially higher among Aboriginal mothers compared to non-Aboriginal mothers. Socio-economic analyses showed that the smoking rate among low SES Aboriginal mothers was approximately two and a half times that of high SES Aboriginal women, a similar gradient to non-Aboriginal women.

Conclusions: Indicators of socio-economic position are a consistent, independent correlate of smoking during pregnancy for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women.

Implications: There is a need for a social inequalities approach to smoking during pregnancy, specifically targeting more disadvantaged Aboriginal mothers and all teenage mothers for smoking prevention. Strategies to access more disadvantaged mothers should not be missed through broadly focused Aboriginal tobacco control strategies.