Professor David Thomas the Head of Menzies' Wellbeing and Preventable Chronic Diseases Division has outlined how stress may not be a major long-term obstacle to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people quitting smoking, as previously believed.

In a recently published study, Prof Thomas found that more smokers who reported being stressed at baseline made quit attempts and stayed quit for longer in the next year, contrary to past research that mainly reported smokers’ perceptions that stress caused them to go back to smoking. 

Forming part of the national Talking About The Smokes study led by Menzies in partnership with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, the 759 study participants completed baseline surveys and follow-up surveys a year later.

Many health professionals and smokers believe that smoking relieves stress. But this relief may be because smoking a cigarette relieves the recurring symptoms of nicotine withdrawal caused by the time elapsed since their previous cigarette.

According to Prof Thomas, health staff can emphasise the research evidence of the benefits to stress management, mental health and well-being that come with successfully quitting smoking.

“Being more stressed or depressed could be seen as a reason to advise a smoker to quit rather than to put it off,” Prof Thomas said. 

“This is very important in these stressful times, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience more stressful events. 

“Quitting smoking is always a good first step in improving your health and can increase your confidence to take on bigger problems.”

Just under two in five (37 per cent) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 and over smoke daily, down from 45 per cent in 2008.

The study was conducted in partnership with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, its affiliates, 34 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and Torres Shire Council.

The study was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health and available at: (HTML) or (PDF).