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Cigarettes favoured over fruit in outback

AAP logoAAP 16/11/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Customers of government-supported outback stores spend more than four times more on cigarettes than they do on fruit and vegetables.

The figure was revealed in the annual report of Outback Stores Pty Ltd, the government-owned company which manages 37 businesses in some of the remotest parts of Australia.

Chairman Stephen Bradley said in the report tobacco turnover had remained "consistently high" with 8.34 million sticks sold over the year and tobacco accounting for 19 per cent of all food and grocery sales.

Customers spent 4.4 times more on cigarettes than fruit and vegetables in 2015/16.

Lung cancer is the highest-ranked cancer type among indigenous people, but the fourth-ranked for non-indigenous Australians.

An incentive program to improve community health has resulted in a 0.5 per cent drop in soft drink sales and a five per cent increase in fruit and vegetable sales.

But the company admitted more needed to be done.

"We remain convinced that a significant dietary change will take many years and our support programs need to operate for the longer term to be effective," Mr Bradley wrote.

The government is aiming to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous life expectancy within a generation, halving the gap in mortality rates for under-fives within a decade and halving the gap in employment outcomes.

The company reported 297 indigenous staff were employed in Outback Stores businesses, which turned over $82.5 million in 2015/16.

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