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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin

Key facts

Tobacco is a drug used by many people throughout the world. In Australia, tobacco is usually smoked in the form of cigarettes. Cigarettes are often sold in packets containing 20-50 cigarettes, and can be bought from many places such as local stores, supermarkets and petrol stations.

Tobacco contains a highly addictive drug called nicotine which affects the brain of a smoker. It can calm down a person if they are upset, or lift a person’s mood if they are feeling depressed. After a period of time the body gets used to the nicotine, and the smoker may find they need to smoke more cigarettes to get the same effect. The longer a person smokes, the more the body becomes used to the drug.

Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals that come from the tobacco, the cigarette papers and other chemicals added to the cigarettes when they are made. These include tar, pesticides, metals and gasses.

Why do people smoke?

There are many reasons people choose to smoke tobacco:

What are the effects of smoking?

Tobacco causes more drug-related deaths and ill-health in Indigenous Australians than all other drugs combined.

Long-term smoking can have serious social and financial effects on individuals and populations.

Long-term smoking is associated with chronic health problems, including:

The risk of developing these health conditions is made worse if a person has other risk factors such as drinking alcohol, being overweight, having poor nutrition, or using other drugs.

Smoking and pregnancy

If people smoke while pregnant they can be at greater risk of:

The unborn baby can experience:

Once born, the baby can have an increased risk of:

Passive smoking

Passive smoking is when a non-smoker breathes in the smoke from a person smoking nearby. People who experience passive smoking on a regular basis are at increased risk of developing lung cancer and other smoking-related illnesses.

Is there a safe level of smoking?

There is no safe level of tobacco smoking. People who choose to smoke will always be damaging their health. They may also be risking the health of those people around them through passive smoking.

Benefits of quitting smoking

When people quit smoking they may improve their life expectancy and reduce their chances of developing respiratory problems, lung cancer and heart disease.

Other benefits can include:

How hard is it to quit smoking?

Because nicotine is highly addictive, it can be difficult for anyone to quit smoking. Sometimes people quit for a short period of time, but then resume smoking. It may take several attempts before a person is able to quit for good.

Barriers to quitting smoking may be:

When a person is trying to quit smoking, there are certain triggers which may make this more difficult:

These events may make it easier to quit smoking:

Last updated: 10 July 2012
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