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New research on smoking related deaths among Indigenous people

Date posted: 12 October 2017

A new study led by the Australian National University (ANU) has found that smoking-related deaths among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are likely to continue to rise over the next decade, despite reductions in smoking rates.

The researchers have found while Australia as a whole has made good progress at reducing the national smoking rate to one of the lowest levels in the world, the rate remains much higher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. They said more robust data was needed to make sure regional areas were able to monitor trends at a local level.

Lead researcher, Dr Ray Lovett, from the ANU Research School of Population Health, said the study found the lag between smoking and the onset of smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer meant smoking deaths were likely to rise. 'We have seen significant declines in smoking among Indigenous Australian adults over the past two decades that will bring major health benefits over time,' Dr Lovett said. 'But we're seeing tobacco's lethal legacy from when smoking prevalence was at its peak.'

Dr Lovett said the research showed communities and governments needed to redouble efforts to get people to quit. 'It also tells us that people should be vigilant if they do notice changes around their health,' he said. 'Particularly when we know [Indigenous Australians] are diagnosed much later so recognising signs and symptoms is really important.'

Co-researcher Dr Katie Thurber said the team analysed the available national health and death data from the past 20 years to conduct the study. 'The available data do not provide the full picture of smoking and its impacts for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, so it's important to understand these limitations and work towards improving data in the future,' she said.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, ABC


Last updated: 2 March 2018
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Australia's National Research Centre on AOD Workforce Development National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre National Drug Research Institute