Tobacco use and measuring nicotine dependence among urban Indigenous pregnant women

Kathryn S Panaretto, Melvina R Mitchell, Lynette Anderson, Conor Gilligan, Petra Buettner, Sarah L Larkins and Sandra Eades
Med J Aust 2009; 191 (10): 554-557.


Objectives: To examine patterns of nicotine dependence, the value of the Fagerström Test for Nicotine Dependence (FTND) and its correlation with self-reported tobacco use and urinary cotinine concentrations among pregnant Indigenous women in Townsville.

Design, participants and setting: Cross-sectional study of 201 consecutive women who self-reported tobacco use at their first antenatal visit to Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Service (TAIHS) between 1 November 2005 and 31 October 2007. All smokers were to be assessed by FTND, and 108 women participating in the Tilly’s Tracks project (a randomised trial of an intervention to reduce smoking in pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women) were to have a comprehensive smoking history taken and urinary cotinine samples collected.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported smoking status, FTND scores and urinary cotinine concentrations.

Results: Of 302 Indigenous women presenting to TAIHS, 201 (66.6%) identified as current tobacco users at their first antenatal visit; this proportion rose to 79.6% in women aged < 20 years. An FTND was completed for 152 women (75.6%), with a median score of 4, and 40.1% scoring 3 or less, indicating low levels of nicotine dependence. There were significant correlations between the FTND and number of cigarettes smoked (ρ = 0.56; P < 0.001) and urinary cotinine concentrations (ρ = 0.25; P = 0.030). Of those who provided comprehensive smoking histories, the median age of starting smoking was 15 years, with a median of two previous quit attempts; 71.4% reported partners who smoked and 27.3% reported smoking occurred inside the house.

Conclusion: The use of the FTND in Indigenous pregnant women may assess physical nicotine dependence, thus providing information that will help in preparing quit-smoking plans, including tailoring of pharmacological support to individual need. Quit-smoking programs that better address the behavioural and psychological aspects of smoking within the Indigenous community in Australia are needed.

  • Kathryn S Panaretto1
  • Melvina R Mitchell2
  • Lynette Anderson1
  • Conor Gilligan3
  • Petra Buettner4
  • Sarah L Larkins4
  • Sandra Eades5

  • 1 Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Population Health Hub, Townsville, QLD.
  • 2 Community Child Health Unit, Queensland Health, Townsville, QLD.
  • 3 School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW.
  • 4 James Cook University, Townsville, QLD.
  • 5 Baker Institute, Melbourne, VIC.


We thank the Board of TAIHS for their support of the project. We also thank Kaye Thompson for her work in the Tilly’s Tracks project. This study was supported in part by National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant No. 510776.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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