NACCHO condems the use of “skins for smokes” that uses cultural content and copyright imagery on cigarette packets to negate health promotion efforts, such as Australia’s recent introduction of plain packaging laws and calls on the Federal Government to ban the sale under that legistlation
Authors: Karen McPhail-Bell, Chelsea Bond & Michelle Redman-MacLaren (see details Blow)
For just $5.29 Australians can now purchase “Skins” from local, independent grocers to cover their cigarette packet with the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander flag.
We argue that this use of cultural content and copyright imagery on cigarette packets negates health promotion efforts, such as Australia’s recent introduction of plain packaging laws and the subsequent dismissal of a legal challenge from the tobacco industry.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people smoke over twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians (ABS 2010). Health promotion practitioners working to reduce these smoking rates face the challenge of the broader historical and cultural context of smoking behaviour.
In response, health promotion efforts have endeavoured to shift, displace and resist the notion that unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, are inherently part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
Some examples of this approach include Queensland Health’s Smoke-free Support Program (Smoking: It could cost us our culture), the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health’s Deadly Choices campaign and other initiatives beyond Queensland (for example, Adams et al 2010; Basinkski and Parkinson 2001).
Brady (2002) has noted how throughout colonial contact, Europeans have exploited Aboriginal addiction to nicotine and therefore as health practitioners, we are concerned about what may be the continued exploitation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for economic gain.
We also note that Skins are available with the Australian flag and are concerned that more broadly, cultural and national pride is being manipulated by these companies. In other words, the sale of products that appropriate cultural content and copyright imagery for the purpose of enhancing the appeal of cigarettes is cause for alarm for us.
As a practice, health promotion endeavours to secure equal opportunity and resources to enable people to achieve their full potential in life. Thus, we raise this issue for your awareness and welcome your analysis, comments and suggestions for action. We are also working on possible responses with advocacy organisations.
Acknowledgement: The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Arika Errington (NACCHO) to this article.
Adams K, Liebzeit A, Jakobi M. (2010). “How’s your sugar?: A deadly website for you, your family and your community.” Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, Aug;34(5):2.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2010). “The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, October 2010.” Journal ABS Cat No 4704.0(Issue) http://abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4704.0/
Basinski D, Parkinson D. (2001). “’We saw we could do it ourselves’: Koorie Cultural Regeneration Project.” Australian Journal of Primary Health;7(1):111-5.
Brady, M. (2002) “Health inequalities: Historical and cultural roots of tobacco use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 26(2): 120-124
 We note that both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are copyrighted materials and therefore must be reproduced in accordance the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968 or with the permission of the artists, respectively Harold Thomas and the Island Coordinating Council.