4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Oct 2010
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/02/2011 Final
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Although the prevalence of smoking in the Australian population has been declining since the 1950s, tobacco smoking remains the single most preventable cause of ill health and death, contributing to more drug-related hospitalisations and deaths than alcohol and illicit drug use combined (Endnote 1). It is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, cancer and a variety of other diseases and conditions.
This topic presents results from the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) which provides the most recent data on tobacco smoking. Results are presented for:
CURRENT DAILY SMOKERS
In 2008, 45% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were current daily smokers, 20% were ex-smokers, and one-third (33%) had never smoked. Between 2002 and 2008, the proportion of current daily smokers decreased from 49% to 45% — representing the first statistically significant decline in smoking rates within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population since the ABS Indigenous Household Survey Program began in 1994.
Similar proportions of males (46%) and females (43%) were current daily smokers in 2008. While rates of smoking were lowest among people aged 55 years and over (32%), they had the highest rate of ex-smokers of any age group (35%). Overall, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas were more likely to be current daily smokers than those living in non-remote areas (49% compared with 43%).
Nearly two-thirds (62%) of current daily smokers had tried to quit or reduce their smoking in the 12 months prior to interview. The most common reasons for trying to quit/reduce smoking were general health, cost and encouragement from family and friends.
Smoking was associated with poorer health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 2008. Current daily smokers reported lower rates of excellent/very good health (38%) and higher rates of fair/poor health (26%) than those who had never smoked (53% and 16% respectively). Likewise, current daily smokers were more likely to have experienced high/very high levels of psychological distress in the last month compared with people who had never smoked (37% compared with 23%).
Smokers also reported higher rates of alcohol and substance misuse. Those who smoked on a daily basis were more likely than those who had never smoked to drink at chronic risky/high risk levels (24% compared with 8%) and to have engaged in binge drinking in the two weeks prior to interview (49% compared with 23%). Current daily smokers were also more likely than people who had never smoked to have used illicit substances in the previous 12 months (31% compared with 9%). This was particularly the case for marijuana use, where around one-quarter (26%) of current daily smokers aged 15 years and over had used marijuana in the last 12 months compared with 9% of ex-smokers and 5% of those who had never smoked.
The most recent information on smoking for non-Indigenous adults is available from the 2007–08 National Health Survey. For both men and women, smoking was more prevalent among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than non-Indigenous people in every age group (graph 4.1 and 4.2). After adjusting for differences in age structure between the two populations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to be current daily smokers. This gap has remained unchanged since 2002.
CURRENT DAILY SMOKERS, by Indigenous status—2008
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2007–08 National Health Survey
These estimates are also available for download in the Adult Health datacube.
Environmental tobacco smoke is a major source of indoor air pollution. It exposes non-smokers to most of the same toxins and chemicals that smokers inhale directly with cigarettes. For adults, exposure to secondhand smoke is strongly linked to heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory conditions. Non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 30 per cent (Endnote 2).
In 2008, 68% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were living in a household with a current daily smoker and 26% were living in a household where someone usually smoked inside. While people in remote areas were more likely to be living with a current daily smoker (76% compared 65% in non-remote areas), the proportion of people exposed to tobacco smoke inside their home was similar (28% in remote compared with 25% in non-remote). Among non-smokers (i.e. those who were ex-smokers or who had never smoked), 41% lived in a household with a current daily smoker and 15% lived with a person who smoked inside.
Also see children and passive smoking for information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in households where someone usually smokes inside.
1. AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2008, 'Australia’s Health 2008', cat. no. AUS 99, AIHW, Canberra, <www.aihw.gov.au>.
2. Department of Health and Ageing, 'The dangers of passive smoking: fact sheet', <www.health.gov.au>.