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Smoking among a national sample of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service staff

In 2012–2013, the prevalence of daily smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults was 42%, although it is falling.1 For many years it has been suggested that the high smoking prevalence of Aboriginal health workers (AHWs) is a barrier to reducing smoking in the communities they serve.2,3 AHWs and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service staff are role models and advocates for health in their communities, and there is evidence that AHWs who smoke have been less likely than those who do not to assist or promote smoking cessation.2

The high prevalences of smoking previously reported among AHWs or other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service staff do not differ greatly from the high prevalences in their communities, but are based on small samples.3 Similarly high smoking prevalence among doctors has been reported in some developing countries, raising the same concerns about their roles in supporting cessation and as opinion leaders.4 In contrast, there has been a steady decline in smoking prevalence among doctors in most developed countries — in Australia, this fell from 27% in 1964 to 3% in 1997, much lower than in the general Australian population.5