Reducing smoking in Australia: how to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Main Article Content

Martin Williams
John Allan


Issue addressed: Australia has succeeded in lowering the overall prevalence of tobacco smoking in the last four decades and has enjoyed a worldwide reputation for innovative policy. However, this success has not extended to Indigenous Australians.

Method: Narrative review and critique of literature from government, public health, health promotion, marketing and communication on smoking cessation in Australia.

Main points: We first consider the history of government anti-smoking measures including legislation and communication initiatives including advertising and sponsorship bans, health warnings and ‘no smoking’ rules affecting anti-smoking norms, culminating in the banning of branding and the advent of tobacco plain packaging. We also review the effects of excise increases and smoking cessation aids such as quit lines and nicotine replacement therapy. For each type of intervention, both population-wide and those specifically directed at Indigenous people, we consider the probable reasons for the failure to reach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or alter their smoking patterns, and make suggestions for improvements in interventions and their evaluation.

Conclusion: The history of anti-smoking initiatives in Australia suggests that community-based health initiatives are likely to be more effective in addressing Indigenous people and helping smokers to quit.


Article Details

Articles (refereed)
Author Biographies

Martin Williams, University of Technology Sydney

Lecturer in Public Communication, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, specialising in advertising.

John Allan, Queensland Health, Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch

Associate Professor John Allan, Associate Professor Allan is the Executive Director of Mental Health Alcohol and other Drugs Branch in Queensland Health

John completed his medical training and PhD in Queensland and his psychiatry training in Adelaide. John is the Executive Director of Mental Health Alcohol and other Drugs Branch in Queensland Health. He has previously been Chief Psychiatrist in both Queensland and New South Wales. He spent twenty years working in North Queensland where he developed a wide range of new mental health services. He is highly experienced in government policy, mental health legislation and service development.

His clinical interests include the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and comprehensive care for those with serious mental illness. His current research and policy interests focus on mental health reform, reduction in restrictive practices, human rights, recovery-oriented practice, and smoking reduction strategies.

He is the President Elect of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.




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