Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) - National Statistics

Tackling Indigenous Smoking National Statistics outlines recent data on smoking and its impacts for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

Page last updated: 05 July 2016

Up to two-thirds of smokers in Australia will die from their habit if they continue to smoke. Compared with non-smokers, smokers will die an estimated 10 years earlier. Smoking 10 cigarettes a day doubles the risk of dying prematurely and smoking a pack a day increases the risk four- to five-fold.1

However, there is good news – if smokers quit prior to age 45, the risk of mortality diminishes gradually with increasing time since cessation, to the point where it does not differ significantly from those who have never smoked.2

This is a stark reminder of the benefits of quitting, as well as not taking up smoking at all.

The total annual social cost of tobacco use to the Australian economy was estimated to be $31.5 billion in 2004-05.  This was fifty-six percent (56.2%) of the total social cost of all forms of drug use (alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs combined).3

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, tobacco smoking is the most preventable cause of ill health and early death, and responsible for around one in five deaths4

In 2014-15, 39 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported being a current daily smoker. While this is a decline of ten percentage points since 2002, and was accompanied by a significant increase in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have never smoked, the gap in smoking rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remains: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are almost three times as likely to smoke as non-Indigenous Australians.5

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 4 times as likely to smoke during pregnancy as non-Indigenous women.6 In 2014-15 39 percent reported having smoked or chewed tobacco during pregnancy.

In 2014-15 an estimated 57 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-14 years live in households with a current daily smoker. This has decreased from 63 percent in 2008.7

Under the National Healthcare Agreement, the Council of Australian Governments has committed to halving the daily smoking rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults (aged 18 years or older) from the 2008 rate of 47.7 percent by 2018.8


1 Banks E, Joshy G, Weber MF et al. 2015. Tobacco smoking and all-cause mortality in a large Australian cohort study: findings from a mature epidemic with current low smoking prevalence, BMC Medicine, 13:38 http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12916-015-0281-z

2 Ibid.

3 Collins D J and Lapsley H M 2008.  The Costs of Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drug Abuse to Australian Society 2004-05.  Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra. http://www.nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au/internet/drugstrategy/publishing.nsf/Content/mono64/$File/mono64.pdf

4 Vos, T, Barker, B, Stanley, L & Lopez, AD 2009, The burden of disease and injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 2003, School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Brisbane.

5 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2014-15, (Released 28 April 2016). Cat. No. 4714.0 Health Risk Factors.

6 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2014, Australia’s mothers and babies 2012, Perinatal statistics series no.30. Cat. No. PER 69, AIHW:Canberra.

7 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2014-15, (Released 28 April 2016). Cat. No. 4714.0 Health Risk Factors.

8 Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision National Agreement Performance Information 2008-09. National Healthcare Agreement. 2009, Productivity Commission:Canberra. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2014-15, (Released 28 April 2016). Cat. No. 4714.0 Health Risk Factors.