National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

National Tobacco Strategy 2012-2018: Draft for consultation

6.3 Bolster and build on existing programs and partnerships to reduce smoking rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

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Smoking remains one of the main factors influencing the lower life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Smoking is responsible for one in five of all Indigenous deaths and is the most preventable cause of poor health and early death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.3

Current smoking rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are more than double those in the rest of the community. In 2008, 45 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 15 years smoked daily.3

All governments have agreed to close the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous people and the general population within a generation.44 Reducing smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is central to this approach.

The health consequences of early smoking initiation are well known and a particular issue among Aboriginal populations.45 Smoking is common in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and strong social norms reinforce early initiation and act as barriers to smoking cessation among Aboriginal people.45

However, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want to quit smoking. In 2008 nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of Indigenous smokers had tried to quit or reduce their smoking in the last 12 months. The most common reasons for trying to quit/reduce smoking were general health, cost and encouragement from family and friends.3

The National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes identifies the following priority elements of the national program to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking:

From 2009-10, the Australian Government is investing $100.6m over four years in the Tackling Smoking Program. Implementation of this program is well underway and includes the roll out of regional tackling smoking and healthy lifestyle teams across 57 regions nationally, enhancements to Quitlines, training for health and community workers and the development of role models and champions to discourage smoking.

In March 2011, the first national anti-smoking campaign targeted specifically to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences, Break the Chain, was launched. It included television, radio, print advertising, and posters.

From 2009-10, States and Territories are investing $37.84 million over four years to tackle Indigenous smoking.46 State and Territory programs include initiatives to build the capacity of Aboriginal health workers and other health workers, implementation of community based projects, the development of partnership and infrastructure programs between governments and community controlled aboriginal health organisations, implementation of cessation programs for pregnant women and their families, introduction of targeted social marketing campaigns and enhanced research and evaluation projects.

Given the high rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in corrections facilities this is an important setting for tobacco control efforts and Indigenous people should be offered support to quit smoking while in prison. This issue is covered under Priority 4.

To be most effective, initiatives to reduce smoking prevalence amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to: be culturally sensitive; be community led; build partnerships between Indigenous and non Indigenous organisations; and build the capacity of Aboriginal organisations and workers.47

Making non smoking the norm among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will require the support and encouragement of local role models, including Aboriginal health workers and community controlled organisations. Social marketing and cessation programs will need to be tailored to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other high-prevalence communities.47 Strategies should include whole of family approaches and a better understanding of protective factors for young people - factors that increase the chances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being non smokers.48 Strengthening data collection and evaluation of existing programs will build the evidence base about effective interventions and inform the roll out of future programs.49

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