About the TIS program

The Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) program aims to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by reducing the prevalence of tobacco use through population health promotion activities. Population health promotion activities are an important feature of overall tobacco control and are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Recent findings from the Mayi Kuwayu study provide strong evidence that these activities are working to encourage positive changes to smoking behaviours.

The program has a number of parts, as outlined in Figure 1.

Elements of the TIS program

The TIS program is managed and funded by the Australian Government Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care’s Preventive Health and Communicable Disease Section (Indigenous Health).

Regional Tobacco Control Grants

A total of 37 organisations are funded through regional tobacco control grants (RTCGs). The funding is for a population health promotion approach to tobacco control, combining a range of evidence-based tobacco control activities to meet the needs of different population groups within a region.

The program offers flexible funding for organisations to select from various evidence-based approaches with a focus on measurable outcomes for smoking-related behaviour change. Funded organisations select the evidence-based activities that best suit the local context and utilise their strengths.

National Best Practice Unit Tackling Indigenous Smoking (NBPU TIS)

NBPU TIS provides tailored support to RTCG-funded organisations. The unit assists organisations with TIS-related matters, such as:

  • accessing research, information and resources on population health promotion and tobacco control
  • developing Activity Work Plans for TIS activities
  • developing local measures and monitoring the impact of TIS activities
  • accessing relevant training and networking opportunities.

NBPU TIS is a Ninti One-led consortium which includes the following partners:

Priority groups

Pregnant women, people in remote areas who smoke, and young people have been identified as three priority groups for the program.

Pregnancy is said to provide a unique opportunity for health behaviour change, since the woman usually sees so many different health workers who can all reinforce the smoke-free message. Pregnancy provides an exceptional opportunity to support change not just for mum and bub, but also for immediate and extended family. You can read more about approaches for working with pregnant women and families here.

Rates of tobacco smoking in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are higher than in urban and regional settings, although some gains have been made. In 2020, the Department of Health funded four organisations under a Remote Priority Group Grant (RPGG), extended the coverage of the TIS program to additional remote communities. You can read more about this on the Remote communities page.

The proportion of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people starting to smoke has decreased over recent years. Sustained efforts are required to continue this positive trend. You can find out more about smoking among young people, including school-based education and awareness activities, and vaping on the Young people page.

National Coordinator Tackling Indigenous Smoking

The National Coordinator is Professor Tom Calma AO. Professor Calma delivers advice to the Australian Government about policy development and implementation in relation to Closing the Gap through Tackling Indigenous Smoking. He also provides leadership, support and mentoring to RTCG recipients.

A national evaluation of the overall program

The evaluation of the TIS program is a two-part process:

  • a process and program improvement evaluation is being carried out by the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia (CIRCA)
  • an impact and outcome evaluation is being carried out by the Australian National University (ANU).

The evaluation documents for the TIS program can be accessed here.

What are TIS activities?

TIS activities take a community level population health promotion approach which aims to inform and support people in their decisions not to smoke or to quit smoking. These activities will:

  • encourage community involvement in and support for local tobacco control activities
  • increase community understanding of the dangers of smoking and chewing tobacco and the links between tobacco and chronic disease
  • improve knowledge, skills and understanding of the health impacts of smoking and pathways to quitting among workers and community leaders
  • promote the benefits of never smoking
  • seek to reduce environmental smoke and exposure to passive smoking
  • improve access to targeted support to quit through clinical and non-clinical services.

TIS-funded organisations are part of an overall preventive health system. Access to clinical best practices (behavioural and pharmacological) will help people who smoke increase their chance of quitting successfully.

A TIS-funded organisation that also has clinical services might offer some of these activities through separate funding agreements. Developing referral pathways to the services available locally, whether located in your own or another service, is a central part of TIS work. Such services include:

Developing and implementing smoke-free policies within their own organisation, and for other organisations is another key activity that the TIS program supports.

Read more about:

Population health promotion activities and individual level activities that work.

In 2016, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt AM, MP announced the funding of seven organisations through to June 2018 under the Australian Government’s Tackling Indigenous Smoking program. The seven innovation projects were funded to deliver intensive smoking prevention and cessation activities, coupled with research and evaluation, to address the most difficult and critical smoking behaviours within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.  You can read more about the Innovation Grant recipients here.