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Keywords:

  • Indigenous population;
  • Australian Aborigines;
  • smoking;
  • tobacco;
  • smoking cessation;
  • trends

Abstract

Objective: To describe the trends in the prevalence of smoking, quitting and initiation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women aged 18 years and over.

Methods: Analysis of responses to smoking questions in national Indigenous surveys in 1994, 2002, 2004 and 2008.

Results: Male Indigenous smoking prevalence fell significantly from 58.5% in 1994 to 52.6% in 2008, an absolute decrease of 0.4 (CI 0.1–0.7)% per year, with the same decline in remote and non-remote areas. Female smoking fell from 51.0% to 47.4%, with markedly different changes in remote and non-remote areas. In non-remote areas, there was an absolute decrease in female smoking of 0.5 (CI 0.2–0.9)% per year, but in remote areas, female smoking increased by 0.4 (CI 0.0–0.8)% per year. From 2002 to 2008, the percentage of ever-smokers who had quit (quit ratio) increased absolutely by 1% per year in both men and women, remote and non-remote areas. Results about trends in initiation were inconclusive.

Conclusions and Implications: Health Minister Roxon has committed to halving the Indigenous smoking prevalence by 2018, and has dramatically increased Indigenous-specific funding and activity in tobacco control. The reported historical trends in this paper are encouraging as they occurred at a time when there was little such tobacco control activity focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, to meet the Minister's goal, Indigenous smoking prevalence will need to fall more than six times as quickly as occurred from 1994 to 2008.