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  • Combatting smoking rates this Lung Cancer Awareness Month

    Combatting smoking rates this Lung Cancer Awareness Month
    21 November 2017

    November marks Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and acts as a reminder of the consequences of tobacco smoking throughout the South Australian community. The discrepancy in smoking rates between Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people within South Australia remains unacceptably significant. Nathan Rigney, Coordinator of Aboriginal Programs at Cancer Council SA shares his views on affecting widespread, positive change through quitting support services such as Quitline alongside culturally-sensitive campaign strategies. 

    The good news is that we are already seeing movement in the right direction. In South Australia today, there are higher numbers of Aboriginal people who have either quit or never smoked, in comparison with those who currently smoke.

    In 2014–2015, 38.2 per cent of Aboriginal people in South Australia aged 18 and over were daily smokers.

    But while we are taking positive action, there is still a long way to go to close the gap. That 38.2 per cent is in stark contrast to the 13.4 per cent smoking rate among non-Aboriginal South Australians.

    In fact, it’s a gap of 24.8 per cent.

    The reasons influencing such a discrepancy are complex, to say the least. In short, compounding issues that have been widely acknowledged as stemming from colonisation and the past and present government policies and treatment that continue to impact on the Aboriginal community, have contributed to a range of normalised behaviours with harmful consequences.

    Additionally, within Aboriginal health, social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) is regarded as the holistic view of health for Aboriginal people, by addressing physical, spiritual, cultural, social, mental and emotional wellbeing. An example of poor SEWB is that Aboriginal people in South Australia experience higher levels of psychological distress than their non-Aboriginal counterparts (33 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively).

    It may not be the sole reason for such a discrepancy in smoking rates, however it highlights the challenges that exist in the Aboriginal community to ensure people are supported in a culturally-appropriate manner to become smoke-free and holistically well.

    Components of effective smoking cessation campaigns

    One of the most important considerations when driving action is to create visual, aural and written messages which connect. 

    Quitline, through the Aboriginal Quitline Enhancement Program, has partnered and collaborated with many Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) programs throughout South Australia to ensure messages are consistent, meet cultural needs and are effectively instigating change.

    Campaigns such as Give Up Smokes For Good, Keep It Corka, Puyu Blasters and Not Up In Smokes, that have all been developed within different local Aboriginal communities in South Australia, have resulted in South Australia boasting a 10.7 per cent decrease in smoking rates amongst Aboriginal people from 2008–2014/15, representing the largest decrease across all states and territories. 

    The common thread amongst all the campaigns mentioned is effective community consultation and participation, and the collaboration between Quitline and the respective services.

    Culturally-sensitive communication

    Being culturally-sensitive, to me means genuinely empathising and acting accordingly. There are many people in our community who are disadvantaged, often through no fault of their own, and it’s our job to understand where people come from, how their experiences have shaped them and how we can support them going forward. Every person we support will have a slightly different story. 

    The Aboriginal Quitline Enhancement Program and the Aboriginal Quitline counsellors, have worked to build a model of understanding, providing high-quality culturally-appropriate support for the Aboriginal community, healthcare professionals, TIS workers and community members, all seeking smoking cessation support.

    As a result of this modelling and practice, a survey conducted by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) found that, in response to asking health professionals about Quitline’s cultural-appropriateness, ‘the vast majority indicated that it was a culturally-appropriate service’.

    If you or someone you know is thinking about quitting, contact Quitline 13 78 48 to begin your supported quitting journey.


    Nathan Rigney,

    Coordinator, Aboriginal Programs, Cancer Council SA

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