Tobacco smoking in the Australian population increases the risk of numerous cancers, heart and vascular diseases, respiratory diseases and a variety of other conditions. It contributes to more drug-related hospitalisations and deaths than alcohol and illicit drug use combined (AIHW 2006a). Tobacco smoking was the leading cause of the burden of disease and injury for Indigenous Australians in 2003, accounting for 12.1% of the total burden and 20% of all deaths (Vos et al 2007).
In 2004-05, half (50%) of the adult Indigenous population were current daily (or regular) smokers. While smoking rates have decreased slightly for the total Australian population over the ten years to 2004-05, there has been no significant change in smoking rates for the Indigenous population in this period.
Similar proportions of Indigenous men (51%) and women (49%) were current daily smokers in 2004-05. While there was little difference between the overall proportions of Indigenous people in remote and non-remote areas who smoked, males in remote areas were more likely than males in non-remote areas to smoke on a daily basis (58% compared with 49%).
In 2004-05, around one in ten Indigenous adults who were current daily smokers or ex-smokers had begun smoking regularly before the age of 13 years. More than two-thirds (68%) had begun smoking regularly before the legal age of 18 years. Nearly half (46%) of all current daily smokers/ex-smokers aged 18-34 years and 90% of those aged 35 years and over had been regularly smoking for 10 years or more.
In 2004-05, Indigenous people who were current daily smokers or ex-smokers, were more likely than those who had never smoked to report being in fair or poor health (27% compared with 17%). They were also more likely to report having experienced high/very high levels of psychological distress in the last month (30% compared with 20%). However, the 2004-05 NATSIHS did not show an association between smoking and elevated rates of tobacco-related health conditions, such as respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease. This may be due to time lag, i.e. smoking behaviours continuing for many years before a disease manifests, or people quitting smoking after being diagnosed with a chronic health condition (see ABS 2007h for more information).
Current daily smokers reported higher rates of other substance use in 2004-05. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who smoked regularly were more than twice as likely as non-smokers (includes ex-smokers and people who had never smoked) to report long-term risky/high risk levels of alcohol consumption (23% compared with 9%) (see the Glossary for more information on alcohol risk levels). In non-remote areas, Indigenous smokers aged 18-34 years were twice as likely as non-smokers to report illicit substance use. This was particularly the case for marijuana use, where nearly half (46%) of regular smokers aged 18-34 years had used marijuana in the last 12 months compared with 16% of non-smokers.
For both men and women, smoking was more prevalent among Indigenous than non-Indigenous adults in every age group (graphs 8.2 and 8.3). After adjusting for age differences between the two populations, Indigenous people aged 18 years and over were more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to be current daily smokers.
8.2 CURRENT DAILY SMOKERS,
8.3 CURRENT DAILY SMOKERS,