The Federal Government have announced an investment of $187.8 million to further fund the Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) program which aims at reducing smoking within communities of First Nations’ People.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, commented that “Smoking is a factor in 37 percent of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths. Reducing smoking rates is a simple and effective way to save and protect lives.”

Minister Hunt noted that tobacco smoking is a key cause of the gap between Indigenous people and other Australians when general health and mortality is considered.

The TIS has been successful in reducing “the percentage of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over who were daily smokers from 50 percent in 2004-05 to 37 percent in 2018-19.”

“Extending the Tackling Indigenous Smoking program is an important contribution to the Morrison Government’s efforts to Closing the Gap” he said.

“It will save lives, protect lives and improve lives.”

Minister Hunt thanked the TIS National Coordinator, Professor Tom Calma AO and the TIS teams that work with communities, enabling guidance and ownership of TIS to ensure that activities under the TIS embody cultural values and appropriate messaging.

Over the next four years, the TIS will prioritise achieving national coverage, through regional population health service delivery, maintaining focus on priority groups, those being remote communities, pregnant women and youth, as well as strengthening the focus on proven population health activities.

The $187.8 million builds on the $781.1 million in the 2021-22 Budget prioritising Indigenous health, and the TIS is funded through the Australian Government’s Indigenous Australian’s Health Programme.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, noted that Indigenous communities continue to take strong steps to reduce smoking rates.

He remarked that “Since 2010, the TIS program has been providing culturally appropriate activities and messages to stop young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people taking up smoking, and help established smokers to quit.”

Wyatt said that due to the TIS and other tobacco control measures “community attitudes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are changing and smoking rates are steadily falling.”

Minister Wyatt believes “Tackling smoking is everyone’s business” and that a range of organisations and governments “all play an important role in helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to stop smoking.”

The Government is committed to reducing the smoking rate to 27 percent or less by 2030 under the National Preventative Health Strategy, which they believe the TIS will be critical in achieving.

Minister Hunt further labelled the tobacco companies targeting Indigenous Australians as “disgusting”. Believing they’re acting inappropriately, he told them to “stop it”.

Minister Hunt’s anger at the tobacco companies comes from the perspective “of the tragedy we’ve seen in the last year, knowing that each year, every year, 19,000 people lose their lives to smoking conditions.”

By Aaron Bloch