Kiwis dump cigarettes

The New Zealand Health Survey, just released, shows that the rate of Kiwis smoking daily has plummeted to 9.4% from 11.9%.  This is the largest decline in smoking ever recorded by the Survey and a significant drop from the 2019-2020 survey which had 485,000 of us smoking daily to 387,000 of us smoking now.

The news gets even better for young people, who are giving up, or not smoking, in large numbers.  15-17 year olds are already at the Smokefree 2025 goal with just 1.1% smoking, down from 3.1%, another record decrease from the earlier survey.  Daily smoking in the 15-24 age group has almost halved from 10.3% in 2019 – 2020 to just 5.9% in the latest survey.  

It’s not all good news though.  The decline in Pacific rates of smoking remains slow with a decline from 18.4% to 16.4% daily smoking rate.  Although Māori smoking rates have declined, from 28.6% to 22.3% of Māori smoking daily – a rate markedly higher than the rest of the population.  Comparing the highest and lowest socio-economic groups, the most deprived Kiwis have the highest smoking rate at 19.6%, compared to 3.4% in the least deprived.  One in 5 people in the most deprived communities still smoke compared to 1 in 30 in the least deprived.

ASH Director, Deborah Hart said, “the hard work of the Government and those in the smokefree sector is paying dividends.  But we must prioritise those who need support to quit smoking – Māori, Pacific and those in low socio-economic status.  We need to be bold with a final push to get us all to the Smokefree 2025 goal together. What is needed immediately is greater investment in mass media campaigns to encourage people to quit and community-led initiatives that support quit efforts.  Then with that support in place, we can legislate to make tobacco products less appealing, less available and less addictive. Plus, we need to strengthen our controls, especially at the border to guard against illicit trade.”

ASH board member and Associate Professor Collin Tukuitonga said, “it is disappointing that Pacific rates remain high.  We can see from the vaccine roll-out what can be achieved when communities are engaged.  That is what we need to ensure Pacific people get to the Smokefree 2025 goal.”

To achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal of daily smoking prevalence under 5% for all new Zealanders, we now need around 40,000 people to quit smoking each year.  Two thirds of whom must be Māori or Pacific.

Useful information

  • The annual New Zealand Health Survey provides a snapshot of the health of New Zealanders through the publication of key indicators, including smoking, for adults and children. It provides comparisons to earlier surveys. Results are available by gender, age group, ethnic group and neighbourhood deprivation.
  • The Smokefree 2025 goal is that less than 5% of all adults smoke daily by 2025.
  • Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • There are almost 5,000 deaths each year (14 deaths every day).
  • Since 2000, cigarette smoking has caused approximately 100,000 deaths.
  • People smoke cigarettes for the nicotine, but die from the smoke from burning tobacco.
  • For more on mass media campaigns, click HERE
  • For more on community-led initiatives, click HERE
  • For more on the Smokefree 2025 Plan, click HERE


About ASH NZ

ASH NZ - Action for Smokefree 2025, is an independent NGO advocating for evidence based, ethical and effective actions to achieve Smokefree 2025 and reduce the preventable burden of premature death and disease caused by cigarette smoking.

To find out more:

Further comment: 

Deborah Hart, Director:  021 379 344; [email protected]

Collin Tukuitonga:  021 2228275;  [email protected];

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