Targeting disadvantage in smoking cessation

Amanda Lyons

6/01/2020 1:50:53 PM

A program being trialled in Adelaide will take a new approach to an old, intractable problem – high smoking rates in low socioeconomic areas.

Person smoking
A new smoking cessation program that targets smokers in lower socioeconomic areas is being trialled in Australia.

Australia’s story of smoking cessation has been a largely successful one, with rates declining from 35% of all adults in 1980 to 14.2% in 2016.
But some sections of the population have traditionally had more trouble quitting tobacco. This includes people of low socioeconomic status, who have smoking rates of 24%; people experiencing unemployment, at 26.5%; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who have a rate of 36%.
According to Cancer Australia Chief Executive Professor Dorothy Keefe, these smoking rates should be considered within a context of disadvantage rather than bad choices.
‘This isn’t about stigmatising,’ she told newsGP. ‘Cigarette smoking is highly addictive and vulnerable people get addicted to cigarette smoking and can’t stop on their own.’
This is the principle behind a new smoking cessation program, funded by Cancer Australia and developed by a research team at Flinders University for trial in Adelaide this year, which focuses specifically on helping smokers in lower socioeconomic areas to quit the habit.
The program will incorporate the most effective methods that have been found by over a decade of research by the Flinders University team.
‘Our previous research has established a number of strategies that are most feasible in breaking bad habits to help people most at risk to quit,’ Project leader and Flinders University sociologist, Professor Paul Ward, said.
‘Now we’re going to measure the success of these methods in a real-world situation.’
The methods to be used in the trial are based in resilience-building behavioural interventions, such as mindfulness and community-led peer support groups, and are designed to help penetrate the complex social, economic and psychological factors that often lie behind entrenched tobacco addiction.
People will take part in randomised controlled clinical trials across metropolitan Adelaide lasting for six months.

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