Legislative Council: Tuesday, February 07, 2023


Aboriginal Smoking Rates

In reply to the Hon. S.L. GAME ().27 September 2022).

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): The Minister for Health and Wellbeing has advised:

We are concerned that tobacco smoking is the most preventable cause of illness and early death in Aboriginal communities, being responsible for 23 per cent of the gap in disease burden between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

While significant gains have been achieved in reducing smoking prevalence among Aboriginal people in South Australia, smoking rates remain much higher in Aboriginal communities. For example, 40.4 per cent of Aboriginal people reported being smokers in the latest survey results and 42.2 per cent of Aboriginal pregnant women reported smoking during pregnancy. This is approximately four times the prevalence in the broader South Australian population.

South Australia's Department for Health and Wellbeing funded 'Give Up Smokes'—an Aboriginal-focused, smoking cessation campaign.

Advertising mediums included radio, social media and in shopping centres and bus stops. The campaign targeted Aboriginal smokers in the Adelaide metropolitan area and was developed in partnership with members of Adelaide's Aboriginal communities to ensure imagery and messaging was culturally appropriate and resonated with the target audience.

Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia (DASSA) is working closely with the Northern Adelaide Local Health Network (NALHN), utilising Aboriginal community advice to further develop targeted smoking cessation services, including within NALHN Aboriginal health services. DASSA is also working closely with the SA Health Aboriginal Health Investment team to deliver Closing the Gap projects including screening tools for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and specialised support for pregnant Aboriginal women who smoke. These projects aim to enable timely access to culturally safe health education, cessation support and harm reduction.

DASSA also funds the South Australian Quitline, which includes a dedicated Aboriginal Quitline team. Quitline counsellors can offer information and support to help people quit smoking, including developing the best quitting strategy for the individual smoker. They can also provide information on quitting products such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and quitting medications.

We have provided $440,000 funding to the Cancer Council SA, over five years to 30 June 2026, to facilitate the Tackling Tobacco program. This program aims to reduce smoking-related harm amongst priority populations that experience high levels of social and economic disadvantage. Through the Tackling Tobacco program, Cancer Council SA will aim to help organisations to address smoking and support people who access their services to quit.

In addition to state government funding, we are also aware of the commonwealth's announcement in January 2022 of an additional $187.8 million investment over the next four years into the national Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) program. This is designed to reduce smoking in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia. TIS teams work on the ground with communities to support quitting, create smoke-free areas, improve Quitline use and provide worker training in quit support skills.

There is insufficient evidence regarding the safety and long-term health risks of vaping to recommend e-cigarettes as a harm and cost reduction strategy for tobacco smokers. E-liquids currently available on the Australian market are inconsistently labelled and contain harmful compounds that may be toxic if vaped repeatedly and have the potential to cause irreversible lung damage. There is also emerging evidence indicating that vaping by non-smokers can increase the likelihood of becoming a smoker of tobacco products.

The provision of licensed nicotine replacement therapies of demonstrated quality, safety and efficacy, such as mouth sprays, patches, lozenges, gum and inhalers is preferred. Nicotine replacement therapy is most effective when accompanied by culturally safe one-on-one counselling.