Introduction: We sought to assess the impact of a 25% tax excise rise on tobacco sales in Aboriginal communities in remote Australia and to explore local perceptions about tobacco tax rises and their impact.
Methods: Tobacco sales data were collected from 18 stores in small remote Aboriginal communities from October 2009 to December 2010. Sales in the 7months before and after the tax increase were compared. Interviews were conducted with 54 informants in 6 communities.
Results: There was a non significant 2.2% average reduction (95% CI =−5 to 10) in total tobacco sold in a store in the 7 months after the price increase compared with the 7 months before the price increase, with a large variation across the 18 stores. The magnitude of this apparent impact may have been reduced by seasonal effects. There were increased demands to share cigarettes, with a perception that there was increased reliance on those with more disposable income to purchase cigarettes for other smokers. The main reasons given for not quitting or reducing smoking were dependence, the normative nature of smoking, and the lack of support to quit. All Aboriginal interviewees supported price increases as important in reducing smoking.
Conclusions: The wide confidence interval around our estimated reduction in consumption means that the tax increase could have either been associated or not with a reduction in consumption. Future excise rises are supported but should be carefully monitored in Australian Indigenous populations.