Shock over Indigenous pregnancy smoking rates

Cancer Council has raised concerns over new figures showing nearly half of all pregnant Indigenous women in Queensland are still smoking more than 20 weeks into their pregnancy.

The findings were published in the Queensland Health 2012-13 Annual Report*, with the high incidence compared to non-Indigenous Queensland women – only 10 per cent still smoked after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Research shows around 53 per cent of Indigenous Queensland women smoke at some point during their pregnancy, compared with just 15 per cent of non-Indigenous Queensland women.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said more needed to be done to support the Indigenous community to quit smoking.

“It’s crucial that pregnant Indigenous women in Queensland get the right resources and support they need to quit smoking for their health, and the health of their baby,” Ms Clift said.

“Smoking during pregnancy causes a range of complications including an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, SIDS and the likelihood a child will have problems with lung development and lung function.

“Alarmingly, figures also show 21 per cent of Queensland women who smoked during the second half of their pregnancy smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day*.

“It’s not enough to simply try and cut down – there is never a safe level of smoking, and quitting at any stage during pregnancy reduces the harmful effects of smoking on a baby.”

Currently, 44 per cent of the Indigenous Queensland population smoke daily.

Cancer Council Queensland is committed to reducing the risk of smoking-related cancer in the Indigenous population.

“Culturally appropriate preventive strategies, developed through partnership and collaboration with Indigenous people, are key to reducing cancer incidence/risk,” Ms Clift said.

“Early diagnosis and effective treatment are essential to improve cancer survival rates.”

Cancer is the leading cause of preventable death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland. Tobacco smoking causes almost 32 per cent of the overall cancer burden.

Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, and leading cause of cancer death, for Indigenous Australians.

Smokers can obtain free information, practical assistance and support from Quit-line, 13 QUIT (ph 13 78 48), or join the QUEST to quit at

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at or via Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20.

For more information or interviews, please contact:
Katie Clift, Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson, Cancer Council Queensland
Ph: (07) 3634 5372 or 0409 001 171

Department of Health 2012-13 Annual Report, page 119.
The health of Queenslanders 2012: advancing good health. Fourth report of the Chief Health Officer Queensland.