The smoking rate for Aboriginal people 16 years and over in NSW is still considerably high. HealthStats NSW shows that in 2018-19, the smoking rate among Aboriginal people is 26.4 per cent,​ which is double the rate for non-Aboriginal people, which was 10.1 per cent.

Reducing smoking rates among Aboriginal people is a priority for NSW Health.

Why are Aboriginal smoking rates so high?

The reasons for the high smoking rates among Aboriginal people are complex. They include:

  • being exposed to smoking early in life and living in a community where smoking is ‘the social norm’
  • social disadvantage such as living in poverty, leaving school early and unemployment
  • smoking to cope with life stressors such as housing stress, mental illness, alcohol and other drug use
  • grief and loss
  • a culture of sharing, often involving tobacco products.

Smoking has, over time, become commonplace in Aboriginal communities. It should be remembered that smoking is not a traditional part of Aboriginal culture but was introduced and later became a part of the rations given by white people.

Most Aboriginal people know that smoking is bad for their health. Wherever the blood flows in the body, tobacco smoke flows too, doing damage to many organs and tissues along the way. Tobacco smoke contains over 7000 nasty compounds that contributes to heart and lung diseases, a range of cancers, stroke, weak bones and diabetes.

More than one in three Aboriginal adults smoke tobacco which is a leading cause of early death and poor health during life.

Getting support for quit smoking

Most Aboriginal people want to quit smoking and many have made multiple quit attempts. Quitting can be hard. Nicotine is the substance in tobacco that creates a physical addiction to smoking. The good news is that you can beat the addiction if you get support.

NSW Health brochures

NSW Health has three brochures to support Aboriginal people who are at different stages of quitting.

Aboriginal smoking thinking about giving upAboriginal smoking decided to give upAboriginal non smokers keep up the good work  

NSW Aboriginal Quitline 13 7848

The NSW Aboriginal Quitlineprovides an individually tailored and culturally sensitive service to Aboriginal callers. This include:

  • Aboriginal advisors to provide tailored advice to Aboriginal callers and an Aboriginal coordinator who is available to talk to community groups about the service
  • Aboriginal specific educational and promotional materials
  • Cultural awareness training for a flexible service that is adaptive to the needs of Aboriginal callers, such as extended call times and further scheduled calls when requested.

Smoking and pregnancy

Visit the Quit for new life page for more information on smoking and quitting for Aboriginal pregnant women and their families.

ATRAC Framework

Visit the ATRAC Framework: A Strategic Framework for Aboriginal Tobacco Resistance and Control page for more information.​​​​​​​

Current as at: Tuesday 8 December 2020
Contact page owner: Centre for Population Health