Indigenous women and smoking during pregnancy: knowledge, cultural contexts and barriers to cessation

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Jun;66(11):2378-89. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.01.024. Epub 2008 Mar 3.


Despite active tobacco control efforts in Australia, smoking prevalence remains disproportionately high in pregnant Indigenous women. This study investigated the place of smoking in pregnancy and attitudes towards smoking within the broader context of Indigenous lives. Focus groups and in-depth interviews were used to collect data from 40 women, and ten Aboriginal Health Workers (AHWs) in Perth, Western Australia. The research process and interpretation was assisted by working with an Indigenous community reference group. Results demonstrated the impact of contextual factors in smoking maintenance, and showed that smoking cessation even in pregnancy was not a priority for most women, given the considerable social and economic pressures that they face in their lives. Overwhelmingly, smoking was believed to reduce stress and to provide opportunities for relaxation. Pregnancy did not necessarily influence attitudes to cessation, though women's understanding of the consequences of smoking during pregnancy was low. Reduction of cigarette intake during pregnancy was seen as an acceptable and positive behaviour change. The AHWs saw their role to be primarily one of support and were conscious of the importance of maintaining positive relationships. As a result, they were often uncomfortable with raising the issue of smoking cessation with pregnant women. The stories of Indigenous women and AHWs provided important insight into smoking during pregnancy and the context in which it occurs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Culture
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services, Indigenous* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / ethnology*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation / ethnology*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Western Australia