Dr Ray Jones.
Dr Ray Jones.

Smoking carnage tackled

THE statistics speak for themselves.

Almost 60 per cent of the adult Aboriginal population on the North Coast smokes tobacco, compared with about 18 per cent of the general population.

“It’s the real killer of Aboriginal people and it has snuck under the radar,” said Dr Gillian Gould, co-ordinator of the newly-funded No Smokes North Coast program, which will employ several strategies to address the problem.

It’s a situation all too familiar to Aboriginal Medical Service GP Dr Ray Jones, who recently received news of an extension to the service’s grassroots anti-smoking campaign under the No Smokes North Coast umbrella.

“It’s a huge health issue for the population in Grafton ... it’s a big cause of illness,” Dr Jones said.

The Grafton-based AMS set up the Smoke Check program some time ago to identify people who wanted to stop smoking and place them on either the drug Champix or nicotine replacement therapy and offer counselling. The Give Up The Smokes (GUTS) program, an intensive nine-hour course, has also been run and will be continued.

“There’s not much point in targeting those who don’t want to stop,” Dr Jones said. “But most people that smoke want to stop smoking.”

New strategies will now be employed including a Koori Quit Cafe, a parenting support group for new and expectant parents, an educational DVD and website and an expression-based education program aimed at primary school kids.

At a national level, the Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowden, announced last week $10.7 million funding for Aboriginal harm reduction and smoking cessation programs across 14 sites.

Funding in this region, $700,000 of it, has been granted to the Mid-North Coast Division of General Practice, based in Coffs Harbour, which will implement strategies through the No Smokes North Coast program.

Dr Jones said drug treatment had a 50 per cent success rate for successful quitting in the first month and 20 per cent after 12 months which, he said, compared favourably with just counselling (three per cent).

He said nicotine replacement had a similar success rate over 12 months. Combining counselling with other treatments showed the best response, Dr Jones said.

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