Former PM Helen Clark celebrates 25 years of progress on youth smoking

May 2018


ASH – Action for Smokefree 2025 has released the 25th anniversary results of the year 10 smoking survey.

The results were released by Health Minister David Clark at Parliament this morning. The release was hosted by ASH Patron, the Rt Hon Helen Clark and attended by Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa. 

The 2017 results show that daily smoking rates for year 10 students remain at a low of 2.1%, with a record 82% of year ten students having never even taken a puff of a cigarette.

The first survey was conducted in 1992, and the latest results can track a quarter century of progress on youth smoking. Back when the survey was piloted in 1992, the daily youth smoking rates were still 11.5% and on the rise. They continued to rise unto a peak of 15.6% in 1999 and have declined steadily ever since.

ASH Patron, former New Zealand Prime Minister the Rt Hon Helen Clark talked about the contribution of the survey to New Zealand’s health over the last quarter century: ‘This survey has helped inform almost every major tobacco control policy in the last 20 years. This includes increasing the age of purchase to 18, minimum pack sizes of 20 cigarettes, smokefree workplaces, banning tobacco displays, mandating plain packaging and driving major investment into smokefree media campaigns targeting young people.

‘Ten years ago, as Prime Minister I announced the results of the 2007 survey which were at a record low of 7.3% at the time. Ten years on, I’m delighted to say that youth smoking has fallen even further to only 2.1%.  Whilst we still have some way to go, it is a credit to this survey that it has kept the pressure on successive governments to address youth smoking and been able to show them the results’.

‘Even though youth smoking is at a record low, it is vital that we do not get complacent. New Zealand only has 7 years left to achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal. We still have a long way to go, especially considering that Māori students are still twice as likely to smoke than non-Māori” said Clark.

Not only has the survey given 25 years of insights on youth smoking, but the survey has helped inspire the careers of those who have been part of it’s history. Dr Bridget Wilson spent the summer of 2011 as an undergraduate medical student working on the survey. She said: ‘The work I did allowed me to understand that doctors, in addition to having a clinical role, are also in a position to improve the health and wellbeing of communities through participation in research, health policy, and advocacy. This led me to specialise in public health and following three years of clinical medicine, I am currently a public health registrar, training with the New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine.”

ASH Chair, Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole said: ‘Since the survey began in 1992, almost 600,000 New Zealanders have taken part. We believe it is the biggest ongoing survey of youth smoking in the world, and the second largest national survey after the New Zealand census. We are especially proud of the contribution this survey has made to reducing youth smoking over the last 25 years’.

‘We need to achieve what we have achieved for year ten smoking for all adults. Year ten smoking has dropped by two thirds in a decade. If we can achieve the same result for adult smoking, we will achieve our goal of Smokefree New Zealand by 2025’, concluded Professor Beaglehole.

The results can be found here. 

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