Wholesale data for surveillance of Australian Aboriginal tobacco consumption in the Northern Territory

David Thomas, Joseph Fitz, Vanessa JOHNSTON, Townsend Joanne, Kneebone Warwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Effective monitoring of trends in tobacco use is an essential element of tobacco control policy. Monitoring tobacco consumption using tobacco wholesale data has advantages over other methods of surveillance. In the present work, a research project that monitored tobacco consumption in 25 remote Aboriginal communities and its translation to a policy to implement this monitoring routinely in the entire Northern Territory of Australia is described.

Methods: Tobacco consumption and trends were estimated using wholesale (or occasionally sales) data from all retail outlets in 25 remote Aboriginal communities. Self-reported consumption was estimated from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey in 2008. Local consumption results were fed back in posters to local organisations and health staff.

Results: Estimates of consumption from wholesale data and self-report were similar (6.8 and 6.7 cigarettes/day/person aged 15 and over). Consumption was higher in the tropical Top End than in arid Central Australia, and 24% of tobacco was consumed as loose tobacco. The overall trend in monthly consumption was not significantly different from 0. Local communities could be ranked by their local trends in monthly consumption.

Conclusions: Monitoring tobacco consumption using wholesale tobacco data is a practical and unobtrusive surveillance method that is being introduced as a new condition of tobacco retail licenses in the Northern Territory of Australia. It overcomes some problems with consumption estimates from routine surveys, enables rapid feedback and use of results and is particularly well suited for hard-to-reach discrete populations, such as remote Aboriginal communities in Australia. It has already been used to evaluate the impact of local tobacco control activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-295
Number of pages5
JournalTobacco Control
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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