• According to a new study, two in five Indigenous people smoke (AAP)Source: AAP
The Australian National University has released a new study which shows the population of Indigenous smokers decreased by almost 10 per cent since 1994.
Rangi Hirini

11 Oct 2017 - 5:31 PM  UPDATED 11 Oct 2017 - 5:37 PM

“Cigarette smoking is a leading contributor to the burden of morbidity and mortality among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders,” the research paper states.

Katie Thurber, the co-author of the research, told NITV News the drop in Indigenous smokers is “great news”.

“The main thing that we found was that the prevalence of tobacco smoking among Aboriginal adults has dropped substantially in the last 20 years, particularly in the last decade,” she says.

The ANU report states there was a reduction of 43 per cent in cardiovascular disease.

Tom Calma, the National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking told NITV News there are two ways how the rate of Indigenous smokers is measured.

The current smokers and those who haven’t taken up smoking or have never smoked.

“We’ve seen a reduction which is the very important bit,” he says.

However, it’s not all good news. The lag of cancer-related diseases appearing means despite people giving up smoking, [the] on-set of smoking-related illnesses can still occur.

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“We do see an increase in cancer deaths in that same time period, but what that is really reflecting is smoking prevalence from up to three decades ago, because we know that there’s a really long lag time from when you smoke to when cancer arises,” Dr Thurber says.

The research also suggests historical influences, such as tobacco being used as rations, may contribute to why there are so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smokers.

“We know that nicotine is quite an addictive drug, and so basically what we’re trying to think about is how today, smoking relates to the historical context,” Dr Thurber explains.

“Basically we’re thinking about what happened back then that might influence smoking behaviour today. So we’re thinking about exposure to tobacco and the dependency that might come from those who may have exposed to tobacco and those that might remain overtime,” she says.

Professor Calma agrees. 

“People believed that smoking wasn’t harmful because smoking was provided to you by the government,” he argues. 

He also believes the reason why the current generation still smokes is due to boredom, isolation and social interaction.

“It reinforces what we already know, and it’s just another report that I hope helps our people to understand a bit more about smoking,” Professor Calma concludes. 

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