Climatic and community sociodemographic factors associated with remote Indigenous Australian smoking rates

An ecological study of health audit data

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Australian Indigenous smoking rates are highest in remote communities but likely vary between communities; few studies have assessed community features in relation to Indigenous smoking rates. Design and objective: This ecological study evaluated the associations between smoking rates, and community sociodemographic and climatic characteristics for a large sample of remote Indigenous communities. Setting and sample: Records (n=2689) from an audit of community health centres in the Northern Territory and Queensland were used to estimate smoking rates dichotomised at the median for 70 predominantly Indigenous remote communities. Community characteristics were similarly dichotomised. Methods: Cross-tabulations were used to calculate the odds of a community classified as high for a sociodemographic or climatic factor also being high for smoking rate. Additional cross-tabulations, stratified by sociodemographic, region (coastal or central) and geographic connectivity levels, were performed to assess potential confounding. Results: Community smoking rates ranged from 25% to 96% (median 60.2%). Moderately strong relationships were observed between community smoking rate and population size (OR 6.25,(95% CI 2.18 to 17.95)), education level (OR 3.67 (1.35-10.01)), income (2.86 (11.07-7.67)) and heat (2.86 (1.07-7.67)). Conclusions: Smoking rates in Australian remote Indigenous communities are universally high. Smoking rates are associated with greater community-level socioeconomic status and size, most likely reflecting greater means of accessing tobacco with mass of smokers sufficient to sustain a normative influence. Severe heat was also associated with high smoking rates suggesting such a stressor might support smoking as a coping mechanism. Community sociodemographic and climatic factors bear consideration as context-level correlates of community smoking rates.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere032173
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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