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The decline of smoking initiation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary students: implications for future policy

journal contribution
posted on 2020-11-19, 23:50 authored by Christina Heris, Nicky Guerin, David Thomas, Sandra Eades, Catherine Chamberlain, Vicki White
© 2020 The Authors Objective: Smoking is a major cause of preventable illness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with most commencing in adolescence. Understanding trends in youth tobacco use can inform prevention policies and programs. Methods: Logistic regression models examined smoking trends among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and all students aged 12–17 years, in five nationally representative triennial surveys, 2005–2017. Outcomes measured lifetime, past month, past week tobacco use and number of cigarettes smoked daily (smoking intensity). Results: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students' never smoking increased (2005: 49%, 2017: 70%) with corresponding declines in past month and week smoking. Smoking intensity reduced among current smokers (low intensity increased 2005: 67%, 2017: 77%). Trends over time were similar for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students as for all students (8-10% annual increase in never smoking). Conclusions: Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are now never smokers. Comparable declines indicate similar policy impact for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and all students. Implications for Public Health: Comprehensive population-based tobacco control policies can impact all students. Continued investment, including in communities, is needed to maintain and accelerate reductions among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to achieve equivalent prevalence rates and reduce health inequities.


The ASSAD survey receives funding from the Australian Government Department of Health and , Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT; as well as from Cancer Councils in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, Cancer Institute NSW and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute. The authors thank and acknowledge the government and non-government education authorities, school principals, teachers, and students who cooperated to make this study possible. We thank the research staff for assistance with data collection. CH receives a PhD scholarship from the Australian Prevention Partnership Centre funded through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) partnership centre grant scheme (Grant ID: GNT9100001, GNT9100003) with the NHMRC, Australian Government Department of Health, ACT Health, Cancer Council Australia, NSW Ministry of Health, South Australian Department for Health and Wellbeing, Tasmanian Department of Health, and VicHealth. CC receives an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship (1161065).


Publication Date



Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health






7p. (p. 397-403)





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