Health authorities on the north coast will survey local indigenous communities about how to cut Virginia smoking rates. Figures released to coincide with World No Tobacco Day show smoking rates among the broader community in the region are just above the state average at 17 and-a-half per cent.

But in local indigenous communities the rate is almost 60 per cent. Health Department spokeswoman, Ros Tokley, says it’s a major problem that must be addressed.

“There are things that the aboriginal community needs to do to improve their health outcomes and the biggest one is smoking,” she said.

“When 50 per cent of aboriginal people are affected by smoking but 20 per cent of the normal population are, it shows that we’ve got a lot of work to do and it needs a concerted effort from across the community to make that happen.

“Environmental tobacco smoke has a huge effect in people around the smoker if you like, so the message this year is to really encourage smoking outside homes and away from children and, if you can, away from other people.

“So that while you may want to continue to smoke, don’t do it near other people,” Ms Tokley said.