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Int J Equity Health. 2009 Oct 31;8:37. doi: 10.1186/1475-9276-8-37.

Smoking prevalence trends in Indigenous Australians, 1994-2004: a typical rather than an exceptional epidemic.

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Menzies School of Health Research, PO Box 41096, Casuarina, NT, 0811, Australia.



In Australia, national smoking prevalence has successfully fallen below 20%, but remains about 50% amongst Indigenous Australians. Australian Indigenous tobacco control is framed by the idea that nothing has worked and a sense of either despondency or the difficulty of the challenge.


This paper examines the trends in smoking prevalence of Australian Indigenous men and women aged 18 and over in three large national cross-sectional surveys in 1994, 2002 and 2004.


From 1994 to 2004, Indigenous smoking prevalence fell by 5.5% and 3.5% in non-remote and remote men, and by 1.9% in non-remote women. In contrast, Indigenous smoking prevalence rose by 5.7% in remote women from 1994 to 2002, before falling by 0.8% between 2002 and 2004. Male and female Indigenous smoking prevalences in non-remote Australia fell in parallel with those in the total Australian population. The different Indigenous smoking prevalence trends in remote and non-remote Australia can be plausibly explained by the typical characteristics of national tobacco epidemic curves, with remote Indigenous Australia just at an earlier point in the epidemic.


Reducing Indigenous smoking need not be considered exceptionally difficult. Inequities in the distribution of smoking related-deaths and illness may be reduced by increasing the exposure and access of Indigenous Australians, and other disadvantaged groups with high smoking prevalence, to proven tobacco control strategies.

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