Treatment and support

There are multiple treatment options available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who want to quit smoking. Many of these treatment options can be used in conjunction with each other. When supporting someone who wants to quit smoking, it’s important to focus on what works for each individual [23503].

Some of these options include:

  • nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
  • brief intervention
  • counselling
  • using physical activity to support quit attempts
  • quitting unaided (going cold turkey)[34634].

NRT combined with ongoing support has been shown to be an effective approach to quitting smoking [29583].  NRT aims to help the transition between smoking and quitting by providing the body with smaller and more controlled doses of nicotine. NRT in the form of nicotine patches is a common medication used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people to help quit smoking. A subsidy is available for some NRT products under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) [39952]. Varenicline (Champix) and Bupropion (Zyban) are also forms of medication which can help people to quit.

Brief intervention uses counselling skills such as motivational interviewing and goal setting to raise awareness, share knowledge, and get someone to think about making changes to improve their health and behaviours  [23503]. When discussing smoking cessation with Health professionals, strategies such as brief intervention have been shown to be a significant motivating reason for people to quit smoking [36654].

Free, confidential telephone counselling is available via Quitline which offers an Australia-wide service for people who want to give up smoking. There is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific Quitline in some states and territories. For those states with only mainstream Quitline services, there will still be an opportunity to speak to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisor.

Physical activity has been shown to aid quit attempts. Exercise can reduce withdrawal and cravings for cigarettes and helps to prevent relapse by boosting self-esteem and feelings of wellbeing [34633].

Quitting unaided, or ‘going cold turkey’ is another way of giving up smoking. Quitting unaided is usually more successful when someone quits all at once, rather than tapering down. Planning ahead to know when a person is more vulnerable to cravings (triggers) will help support the effort to quit [34634].

Research has shown that the most common reasons for wanting to give up smoking for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are health, price of cigarettes and concern for children [36654]. The factor most likely to predict sustained quit attempts was the capacity for self-empowerment.


Key resources



Panarringkarra by Jukuja Dolly Snell

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