Tobacco

Tobacco comes from the dried leaves of the tobacco plant. It contains nicotine, a stimulant drug that speeds up messages travelling between the brain and the body. Nicotine is the drug in tobacco that causes addiction [31577].

As well as nicotine, there are more than 7000 chemicals in tobacco, and at least 250 are known to be harmful [31575]. Of these 250 harmful chemicals, at least 60 can cause cancer. These chemicals are the reason why people get sick and experience long term harms from smoking.

Smoking can contribute to a number of short and long term harms. Short terms harms include: increased heart beat; reduced appetite; stomach cramps and nausea; and loss of taste and smell. In the long term smoking can cause cancer and lung disease [31577].

Tobacco and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

In recent years, about a third of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population above the age of 15 and over were current daily smokers [40728][39231]. Tobacco control efforts have seen a substantial drop in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people smoking, especially in the younger age groups. However the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people smoking in rural and remote areas is a concern, as the proportion of current smokers in remote areas remains high (up to 50%)[39231].

Smoking is the leading modifiable risk factor contributing to burden disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people[43959]. There are a number of reasons why smoking is so high in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including: higher levels of stress; the normalisation of smoking in some communities (like flour and sugar, tobacco was given out as part of rations for labour); because of grief over past injustices; and because of social disadvantage such as poor housing or unemployment [29610][29689][34613].

For a summary of statistical information updated yearly on tobacco use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, see also our latest Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status.

References

Key resources

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Artwork

Panarringkarra by Jukuja Dolly Snell

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