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Smoking rates among indigenous people have fallen by 10% in a decade, but are still far higher than the rest of the community. New figures released in November 2013 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show 41% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 or over smoked each day in 2012-13. That's a significant decrease from 51% in 2002. But the smoking rate in the rest of the community was 20.4% of men and 16.3% of women in 2011-12.
Close the Gap co-chairs, Mick Gooda and Kirstie Parker, said the figures show measures to improve the health of indigenous people could work, but sustained long-term commitment was needed. 'The decline in smoking is good news but health outcomes for our communities will continue to reflect the long-term damage caused by the high level of smoking. And it will take time for the closing the gap initiatives to be reflected in health data,' Mr Gooda said in a statement.
Ms Parker said improving the health of indigenous people had to remain a national priority. 'Our people are significantly more likely than other Australians to experience major health problems such as heart or circulatory disease (twice as likely), diabetes (three times more likely), and almost one-third of participants reporting psychological distress,' she said.