Australia - heavy tobacco use killing Aborigines..

October 6, 2009 - Smoking is a "scourge" that is killing thousands of indigenous Australians every year, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma says. (The term "Aboriginal" has traditionally been applied to indigenous inhabitants (original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands),of mainland Australia, Tasmania, and some of the other adjacent islands.)

Dr David Thomas from the Darwin-based Menzies School of Health Research has stated smoking is the single biggest factor responsible for the gap between the health of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

He's called on governments across the country to fund programs aimed at cutting Aboriginal smoking rates. Currently, around 50 percent of indigenous people smoke, compared with just 19 percent of all Australians.

Mr Calma, who'll address an Oceania tobacco control conference in Darwin on Wednesday, says smoking kills one in five indigenous people. Calma: "Indigenous people are more than one-and-a-half times more likely to die from lung cancer than non-indigenous people. Similarly, the much higher death rates from heart disease and other chronic diseases in the indigenous community are in a large part attributable to smoking."

Governments and policy makers should "implement a comprehensive, longer-term national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tobacco control strategy that brings together the various programs and research to drastically reduce smoking rates as soon as possible", Mr Calma said.

The commissioner says he believes mainstream anti-smoking programs need to be made more accessible to indigenous people and tailored to their needs.

The Heart Foundation on Tuesday unveiled its plan to curb smoking among Aboriginal Australians. It's called for specialist tobacco workers to be sent into indigenous communities. The foundation's tobacco spokesman, Maurice Swanson, said much of the difference in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians was due to high rates of cardiovascular and other diseases caused by tobacco.

Mr Calma says smoking is one of the most important health issues facing indigenous people. "If we are to beat this scourge, indigenous people themselves must start to own this issue as a major problem within communities."

A statistical overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia..

Reference: Smoking killing Aborigines, says Calma,
Australian Associated Press (AAP), 10/5/2009.

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Click on images to enlarge, right image Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma..