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Study protocol - Indigenous Australian social networks and the impact on smoking policy and programs in Australia: protocol for a mixed-method prospective study

Raglan Maddox1*, Rachel Davey1, Tom Cochrane1, Ray Lovett2 and Anke van der Sterren3

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Research and Action in Public Health, University of Canberra, University Drive, Canberra, ACT 2606, Australia

2 Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Australian National University, GPO Box 553, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia

3 Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Tobacco Control, University of Melbourne, 207 Bouverie Street, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:879  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-879

Published: 24 September 2013



Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in Australia. Comprehensive tobacco control has reduced smoking rates in Australia from approximately 34 per cent in 1980 to 15 per cent in 2010. However, 46 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Indigenous Australians) smoke on a daily basis, more than double the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. The evidence of effective tobacco control strategies for Indigenous Australians is relatively scarce. The aim of this study is to (i) explore the influences of smoking in Indigenous Australian people and to (ii) help inform and evaluate a multi-component tobacco control strategy. The study aims to answer the following questions: - do individuals' social networks influence smoking behaviours; - is there an association between various social and cultural factors and being a smoker or non-smoker; and - does a multi-component tobacco control program impact positively on tobacco behaviours, attitudes and beliefs in Indigenous Australians.

Methods and design

Our prospective study will use a mixed-method approach (qualitative and quantitative), including a pre- and post-test evaluation of a tobacco control initiative. The study will explore the social and cultural context underlying Indigenous Australian tobacco use and associated factors which influence smoking behaviour. Primary data will be collected via a panel survey, interviews and focus groups. Secondary data will include de-identified PBS items related to smoking and also data collected from the Quitlines call service. Network analysis will be used to assess whether social networks influence smoking behaviours. For the survey, baseline differences will be tested using chi2 statistics for the categorical and dichotomous variables and t-tests for the continuous variables, where appropriate. Grounded theory will be used to analyse the interviews and focus groups. Local Aboriginal community controlled organisations will partner in the study.


Our study will explore the key factors, including the influence of social networks, that impact on tobacco use and the extent to which smoking behaviours transcend networks within the Indigenous Australian community in the ACT. This will add to the evidence-base, identifying influential factors to tobacco use and the effectiveness and influence of a multi-component tobacco control strategy.