Remote communities

The 2018-19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey shows a strong downward trend in smoking prevalence over the last 15 years leading to fewer tobacco related illnesses and many lives saved. There are now more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who do not smoke, than do smoke. However, this decline in smoking has not been uniform across regions. Whilst the reduction in smoking prevalence is very evident in urban areas, there has been little change in rates of daily smoking among Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people living in remote or very remote areas. Reducing the prevalence of tobacco use in remote areas is therefore a priority focus for the TIS Program.

There is some evidence from the ABS data and the Talking About the Smokes Study (TATS), that smoking behaviours in remote areas are beginning to change, although more slowly than in urban or regional areas:

  • fewer young people are taking up smoking in remote as well as non-remote areas.
  • there has been an increase in cessation attempts in remote areas.
  • motivation to quit or making a quit attempt is the same in remote and non-remote areas – it is just that people in remote areas are less likely to sustain their quit attempt for a month or longer.

It is possible that low awareness of quit support services in remote areas and more communal and social patterns of smoking make it harder to sustain a quit attempt. In contrast, evidence suggests that living in a smoke free home and having support from friends and family helps sustain a quit attempt.

Other positive changes are also taking place in services in remote settings. For example, recording client smoking status has been found to be increasing in remote areas, especially in services with TIS Program funding compared to non-funded services. This suggests increased awareness among health professionals of the need to address smoking behaviours in these TIS-funded services.

It has been suggested that increasing the intensity and reach of TIS teams in remote areas could lead to significant reductions in smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas. In 2023, the Department of Health and Aged Care revised its approach to program service delivery, with the aim of expanding the geographical coverage of the program to 100 percent. TIS Program service regions transitioned to an improved regionalised approach, defined according to the ABS Indigenous Regions 2021 (IREG). This change was taken to ensure all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, including those in remote and very remote areas would have access to TIS Program support.

To view which areas of Australia different TIS Teams service, you can visit TIS Interactive Map and select the map layer ‘Tackling Indigenous Smoking Service Areas commencing 1 July 2023’. Click on the TIS area of interest and a pop-up window will show the lead organisation’s name.

It is anticipated that increasing the focus on remote areas through more targeted activity would concentrate efforts on the areas of greatest disparity. The emerging evidence suggests effective activities include:

  • promoting and supporting smoke free homes
  • raising awareness of quit support services
  • social marketing campaigns to encourage quit attempts and promote confidence to stop smoking.

On 22 February 2022, the NBPU TIS hosted an online workshop for the 22 Tackling Indigenous Smoking teams who service communities in remote and very remote Australia. You can view the presentations here.


To find relevant resources, visit the Resources to support activities page and filter resources by ‘Remote communities’.

Featured icon artwork by Frances Belle Parker: The HealthInfoNet commissioned Frances Parker, a proud Yaegl woman, mother and artist, to produce a suite of illustrated icons for use in our knowledge exchange products. Frances translates biomedical and statistically based information into culturally sensitive visual representations, to provide support to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce and those participating in research and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities.