NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert:Almost half all Aboriginal people older than 14 smoke daily


From the AUSTRALIAN March 2013

ANTI-SMOKING campaigns for indigenous youth have conspicuously failed, in yet another setback to efforts to “close the gap” on key health, economic and school outcomes.

A study released by the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand found that almost half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged over 14 smoked on a daily basis, with kids as young as nine using tobacco.

Overall, indigenous youth were twice as likely to smoke as other young people.

The researchers reviewed smoking prevention measures, including clinical trials and public awareness campaigns.

Kristin Carson, of Adelaide’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said there was an “added social context” around smoking among indigenous children, resulting in those as young as nine doing it.

“Considering this information, it should be no surprise that nationwide tobacco prevention among youth was identified as a key national health priority resulting in $1.6 billion being invested by the Australian government in the Closing the Gap initiative,” she said as the study was presented to the Thoracic Society’s annual scientific meeting in Darwin.

“However, our review of the scientific literature — aimed at evaluating this initiative for use by researchers, consumers, policymakers and doctors – has identified a paucity of data in this area. Interestingly, we were unable to identify any Australian studies that evaluated the effectiveness of tobacco prevention initiatives targeting Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander youth.”

Ms Carson said the ineffectiveness of anti-smoking programs represented an “opportunity cost” to indigenous health, crowding out programs that might make a difference.

Researchers found only two cases where major investment in anti-smoking programs was effectively evaluated – neither in this country. “In Australia, smoking prevalence in indigenous youth remains twice that of the non-indigenous population with tobacco experimentation reported to be on the rise,” Ms Carson said.

“As such, there is a need for rigorous trials examining the many programs that have not been well evaluated to this point. This will assist in bridging the gap between tobacco-related health disparities for indigenous and non-indigenous populations.”

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