In this study, we used data from Australia’s Northern Territory to assess differences in self-reported smoking prevalence between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. We also used urinary cotinine data to assess the validity of using self-reported smoking data in these populations.
The Aboriginal Birth Cohort (ABC) is a prospective study of 686 Aboriginal babies born in Darwin 1987–90. The Top End Cohort (TEC) is a study of non-Indigenous adolescents, all born in Darwin 1987–91. In both studies, participants aged between 16 and 21 years, were asked whether they smoked. Urinary cotinine measurements were made from samples taken at the same visits.
Self-reported smoking prevalence was 68% in the ABC and 14% in the TEC. Among the self-reported non-smokers, the median cotinine levels were higher in the ABC (33 ng/ml) than in the TEC (5 ng/ml), with greater percentages of reported non-smokers in the under 50 ng/ml group in the TEC than in the ABC
Prevalence of smoking was much higher in the ABC than in the TEC. The higher cotinine levels in ABC non-smokers may reflect an underestimated prevalence, but is also likely to reflect higher levels of passive smoking. A broader approach encompassing social, cultural and language factors with increased attention to smoking socialisation factors is required.