Informing a national approach to Aboriginal tobacco control


Status completed

Start Date

End Date


A comprehensive approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tobacco control

Project title

What is the issue?

Tobacco use remains high among Aboriginal adults despite a decline in recent years, from 49% in 2002 to 41% in 2012. Tobacco use is also high in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait people, with 39% of those aged 15-24 years smoking daily. In contrast, among the total population, Australia has one of the lowest rates of smoking in the world, with 16% of adults reported to smoke.

Smoking is the major preventable risk factor contributing to the gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

Efforts to reduce tobacco use among Aboriginal people have varied between States. Recent Commonwealth policies have focused on Aboriginal tobacco action workers as well as regional tobacco coordinators, enhanced quit line services and social marketing campaigns.

Currently, in Australia there is no national framework to guide action on reducing tobacco use among Aboriginal people or recent research about smoking uptake among Aboriginal adolescents.

While smoking is related to the persistent disadvantage that Aboriginal people face, there is a need for a concerted systematic approach to reduce smoking among Aboriginal people.

How did the project address the issue?

The project involved:

  • A systematic review of the literature to establish rates of smoking among young Aboriginal people in Australia and globally and the determinants of smoking in this vulnerable group
  • Qualitative studies with Aboriginal adolescents to explore their knowledge and attitudes about smoking and factors in successful interventions to curb smoking uptake
  • Developing an intervention targeting smoking uptake among Aboriginal adolescents.

Relevance for practice

Drawing on existing evidence, the project looked at current programs and assess best practice and opportunities for improvement. It provided policy makers with a framework for a systematic approach to reducing tobacco use among Aboriginal people, particularly focusing on smoking in young Aboriginal people.

What are the expected outcomes?

The project established parameters for a more comprehensive and systematic approach to reducing smoking by Indigenous Australians and compared this with current practice.



Project team


This project was funded by the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, NSW Ministry of Health, ACT Health and the HCF Research Foundation.