Teen smoking falls to record low – new ASH survey

Media release

28 February 2022


Smoking rates among 13 and 14-year-olds have fallen to a record low while curiosity-driven vaping has risen, the 2021 ASH Year 10 Survey has found.

The study found the number of Year 10 students who smoke cigarettes daily has dropped from around 2% in 2019, to 1.3% in 2021.

It also found significant declines in smoking by students of all ethnicities. Māori students led the way with a massive 40% decrease in daily smoking rates since 2019. Only 3.4% smoked daily in 2021.

The ASH Year 10 survey is one of the largest and longest running surveys of youth tobacco and vaping behaviours and attitudes in the world. It has run annually since 1999 with the exception of 2020 which was cancelled because of COVID-19. In 1999 it found 15.6% of Year 10 students smoked cigarettes daily.

Former Prime Minister and ASH patron, Helen Clark welcomed the ASH Year 10 Survey.  “As a former Minister of Health, I know that public health policy relies on the best possible evidence.  The ASH Year 10 Survey, which has been undertaken for nearly 30 years, provides the evidence for policy-makers, government and researchers on youth smoking and youth vaping.”

ASH Director Deborah Hart says the results of the 2021 survey shows teenagers have already reached the Smokefree 2025 goal of less than 5% smoking daily (95% smokefree). We are delighted at this result because smoking kills 5000 Kiwis every year.

“The Survey results are consistent with trends in young adults shown by the 2021 NZ Health Survey.  This is the biggest fall in youth smoking rates in a decade, and it’s extremely encouraging to see young people leading the progress towards a smokefree Aotearoa.

The fall in smoking was accompanied by an increase in daily vaping from 3.1% in 2019 to 9.6% in 2021. 

Vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking,” Deborah Hart says. “However, we don’t want youth to take up vaping.

“The main reason students gave for vaping – 39.8% – was ‘just to give it a try’. While for those who vape daily, the most common reason was because they enjoy it – 31.1%.

“Today’s teenagers are no different to yesterday’s teenagers; they like to experiment and have fun.

More than 75% of students are getting vapes from social sources, either friends, older people or family. Only 7.6% of those who regularly vape say their main source of vapes was a vape shop, dairy or online. 

“The most important thing we can do for our teenagers is to help them make good choices for themselves.

“The Government’s recently introduced vaping regulations will further protect teenagers by banning vaping advertising and sponsorship, and sales to young people.” Deborah Hart says.

For the results:


Notes for editors:

  • The ASH Year 10 Survey findings are consistent with the 2021 New Zealand Health Survey, the Health and Lifestyles Survey and Youth 19 Survey.
  • The ASH Year 10 Survey uses robust and validated measures. It is conducted to a high methodological standard that has been subject to peer review and ethics approval. It is funded through Te Hiringa Hauora by the Ministry of Health.
  • The 2021 Survey is based on questionnaires from 26,648 Year 10 students from 50% of New Zealand’s high schools.
  • Schools that participate are given valuable data to help them deal with youth smoking and vaping in their school.


Smoking facts:

  • Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Aotearoa New Zealand, causing more than 5,000 deaths every year – that’s 14 lives lost every day.
  • Smoking is the leading cause of preventable health inequities being responsible for up to two years of the life expectancy gap experienced by Māori.
  • Around one in 11 adults smoke cigarettes daily, but this rises to one in four among Māori.
  • People smoke cigarettes for the nicotine but die from the smoke from burning tobacco.
  • Cigarette smoking imposes huge financial and health burdens on the poorest New Zealanders: in the poorest fifth of the population, one in four adults smoke.


Vaping facts:

  • Over 250,000 New Zealanders vape daily.  Less than 5% of them are under 18.
  • Only 3% of 14-15 year olds who vape daily have never smoked.
  • Vaping delivers a vapour composed mostly of propylene glycol (also used in asthma inhalers) and flavouring agents. Some, but not all, contain nicotine. 
  • According to the Royal College of Physicians, vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking
  • Vaping is a harm reduction tool for those who are smoking. It is helping thousands of New Zealanders to stop smoking.


Information and Comment

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

Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole and Associate Professor Collin Tukuitonga are available for comment from midday Monday 28 February.  Please call Deborah Hart for contact details and interview availability.


Latest News

See all news >