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Seeking a comprehensive approach to tobacco control for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Tobacco smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (hereafter we use the term “Aboriginal” to refer to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but do so with respect for the autonomy of the two peoples) is the leading cause of health inequities in this population, and its control is essential to “closing the gap” in health status between Aboriginal and other Australians.1 Australia, however, currently lacks a comprehensive framework that guides and monitors the effectiveness of tobacco control efforts among Aboriginal people at the local, state and national levels.

In a recent Australian study, the mortality rate for smokers over 45 years of age was three times higher than for non-smokers, and they died about 10 years earlier; two-thirds of deaths among smokers could be attributed to their smoking2 and smoking accounts for 20% of all Aboriginal mortality.3 While smoking rates among Aboriginal people are decreasing, 42% of those aged 15 years or older reported smoking daily in 2012–2013 — more than 2.6 times the rate for other Australians.3 Of particular concern is that 39% of young Aboriginal people aged 12–24 years reported smoking daily,4 compared with 11% of young…