Smoking killing many Indigenous: study | Ralph-Lauren

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One in two Indigenous Australians over the age of 45 are dying due to smoking, a new study shows.

Smoking is also killing more than one in three Indigenous Australians of any age, according to the Australian National University study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology on Monday.

Dr Katie Thurber says the analysis of 1388 Indigenous smokers and non-smokers reveals the true toll tobacco addiction is taking on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“The results are shocking – smoking is killing one in two older adults, and we found smokers have four times the risk of early death compared to those who have never smoked,” she said in a statement.

“This is the first time we have had data specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Our findings show that we have underestimated the impact of smoking. It causes nearly double the deaths that we previously thought.”

The ANU team followed study participants for 10 years and found that while people who smoked more were at higher risk of death, those who smoked just one cigarette a day dramatically increased their mortality.

Associate Professor Raymond Lovett said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who never smoke live an extra 10 years, compared to those who smoke.

“Quitting smoking at any age lowers your risk of early death, and the earlier you quit, the better,” he added.

Smoking rates in Indigenous communities are dropping, however Prof Lovett said smoking had killed more than 10,000 Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders since 2010.

Prof Lovett said it was timely to reflect on how nicotene became prevalent in Indigenous communities ahead of Australia Day.

He said commercial tobacco had been introduced to Indigenous people as form of payment during colonial times.

However, he said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were pushing for change.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and local communities are leading the way in tobacco control efforts and how they want to address tobacco use in their community through the Tackling Indigenous Smoking program,” Prof Lovett said.

“This is a great example of self-determination.”

Professor Tony Calma said the Tackling Indigenous Smoking program needed more federal government support to ensure it reaches the whole community.

“If smoking is a bigger problem than we thought, then funding should be increased to match the size of the problem,” he said.


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