Smoking in Outback Australia: An under reported health emergency

The average smoking rates in the Australian community is 16% and in affluent urban communities it is about half of this. It is a very different picture in outback Australia and in indigenous communities.

Using current medical centre data, the smoking rate for over 18 year olds in Bourke is 33%, in Brewarrina it is 44%, in Condobolin it is 27%, and in Collarenebri 42%. This is between two and three times the national average.

Within the indigenous population over 15 years old in these towns we get smoking rates of 61% in Collarenebri, 56% in Brewarrina, 52% in Bourke and 50% in Condobolin. These smoking rates are of epidemic proportions and haven’t been seen in Australian urban communities since the 1970’s.

Ochre Health Director of Medical Services, Dr Hamish Meldrum outlined the problem

smoking is one of the most important and preventable health issues in rural communities

Ochre Health has had the good fortune to have a working relationship with Professor Garry Egger and John Bevins. These two people were part of writing and producing one of Australian best known and most successful anti-smoking commercials “sponge commercial”.

The “sponge commercial” is the property of the NSW Cancer Institute (NSW Health) and has gone onto much local and international success and has been screened in many countries including China and Russia.

Ochre Health started screening this commercial on the 1st of February 2015 on Imparja TV reaching outback communities in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania. Imparja reaches over 1 million viewers in outback and rural Australia.

Ochre Health has added the message at the end of the commercial to say “to quit see your doctor”

Dr Meldrum said

We are hopeful that across rural and remote Australia local doctors will see more patient presentations for smoking cessation. Ochre Health has arranged for a smoking cessation education in partnership with the Western NSW LHD. This education will be delivered to doctors, nurses, aboriginal health workers, and smokers in Bourke and Brewarrina in early March.

This initiative from Ochre Health was only possible with the assistance and the donation of time from of Garry Egger, John Bevins, the ICanQuit Team at the Cancer Institute NSW, Sally Bembrick at the Western NSW Local Health District, LOUD and David Steindl of David Steindl Productions. Ochre Health would like to thank everyone involved. We are also very grateful to Imparja for the assistance they have provided in increasing the number of screenings of this commercial.

Please select the practice you'd like to book.