Reflections on Indigenous commercial tobacco control: 'The dolphins will always take us home'

Raglan Maddox, Michelle Bovill, Andrew Waa, Heather Gifford, El-Shadan Tautolo, Patricia Nez Henderson, Sydney A Martinez, Hershel Clark, Shane Kawenata Bradbrook, Tom Calma

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Commercial tobacco use is a complex behaviour influenced by a range of factors; most notable among Indigenous peoples is the impact of colonisation.1 2 The commodification of tobacco as a consumer product was commonly introduced by colonisers and has been used as a tool for coercive control through tobacco’s addictive qualities. Colonisation causes trauma, stress, racism and exclusion from education and employment, which are all linked to commercial tobacco use.1 3–5 Across Turtle Island (North America), European colonisers appropriated, adulterated, modified, industrialised and commercialised tobacco as a commodity, in stark contrast to its use as a sacred medicine among many Indigenous peoples.6 Commercial tobacco was then brought through the Pacific as a sought- after commodity, providing a link to trade and the global economy.7 In Australia, commercial tobacco was provided in rations (payment in lieu of wages) until 1968.8 Colonisation and its associated impacts have eroded Indigenous peoples’ agency and broader self- determination at a community and population level. Mass production and distribution of commercial tobacco impedes Indigenous health, well- being and ways of knowing and doing.6 9 10 Understanding local Indigenous experiences and viewpoints of tobacco and coloniality provides alternative narratives that challenge colonialist ways of knowing, being and doing. Colonialist narratives have tended to focus on ill health and disadvantage, reproducing deficit discourse.11 Contextualising Indigenous commercial tobacco use within colonisation assists to address inaccurate notions that there is a biological basis for the use of commercial tobacco among Indigenous peoples, including fallacies12 that Indigenous peoples are genetically predisposed to addiction. These are a form of deficit discourse based on and consistent with ideas and representation of Indigenous peoples as racially inferior and inhuman which have persisted since colonisation.13 It is important to recognise such contexts as the focus for tobacco control to empower Indigenous peoples to be free of commercial tobacco and nicotine dependence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)348-351
    JournalTobacco Control
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


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