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What are our smoking rates and how are they changing?
Smoking rates in New Zealand Aotearoa continue to reduce, with 11.6% (464,000 daily adult smokers) and 13.4% (535,000 current adult smokers) 43
New Zealand’s daily smoking rates39 are:
|Adult smokers (15+)||11.6% (down from 18% in 2006/07)
- With higher smoking rates among men (12.2%) than women (11%)
|Youth aged 15–17||3% (down from 14% in 2006/07)|
|Young adults 18-24||12.9% (down from 25% in 2006/07)|
|Māori adults||28.7% (39% in 2006/07)|
|Pacific adults||18.3% (25% in 2006/07)|
|European and other||10.1%|
|Adults 15+ years (currently smoking)||33||32||30||30||30||29||27||28||26||27||27||27||27||26||26||25||26||25||25||25||25||23||24||20||20||21||20||20||18||18||17||17||16||16||14.9|
|Year 10 students (regular smoking)||29||28||25||22||21||18||17||14||13||12||11||10||8||8||6||5||5||5|
- 25-34 year olds have the highest smoking rate, 16.7%.
- Māori women have highest smoking rate at 32% (Māori men 25%).
- Smokers are more likely to have poor mental health than non-smokers.
- Smokers are more likely to binge drink.
- The average age of starting smoking is 14.8 years-old.
- After adjusting for age, gender and ethnic differences, adults living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas were 4.5 times as likely to be current smokers as adults in the least deprived areas
- In 2018, the daily smoking rate for 14 and 15-year-olds fell to 1.9%, the lowest rates ever.57
And people are smoking less.
Between 2010 and 2018 the amount of tobacco smoked per person decreased by 39%. The average adult (over the age of 15 years) now smokes an average of 586 cigarettes a year.40
Smoking by priority population groups
Smoking rates continue to drop, however this is not at the same rate for all people, with Māori and Pacific peoples still smoking at high rates. 46
Traditionally, Māori did not smoke. However, when tobacco was introduced to New Zealand in the 18th century that changed quickly. Smoking has been particularly damaging for Māori, who have higher smoking rates and higher rates of death and tobacco-related illness than non-Māori.
- Māori daily smoking prevalence in 2019/20 was 28.7% (145,000 smokers) and current smoking prevalence 31.4% (158,000 smokers).
- Māori were three times more likely than non-Māori to be daily smokers.
- The absolute difference in daily smoking prevalence between Māori and European/others narrowed by only 3.9% (from 23.7% to 19.8%) between 2011/12 and 2019/20.
- The daily smoking rate for Māori adults is 28.7%.46
- Māori were 2.77 times as likely to be current smokers, and Māori women were 3.6 times as likely to be current smokers, than their non-Māori counterparts, after adjusting for age, and gender.
- Māori smokers are the youngest to start smoking, at just over 14-years-old on average.48
- The daily smoking rate for Pacific adults is 18.3%.46
- Pacific men – 21.3%, Pacific women – 15.9%.
- Pacific peoples have the second highest smoking rates after Māori and are also more likely to get sick because of tobacco smoking than the non-Pacific population.50
- The average age of beginning smoking is at about 16.6-years-old.
- Pacific adults were 1.7 times as likely to be current smokers as non-Pacific adults, after adjusting for age and gender differences.
- Pacific smokers have the quickest transition from experimentation to regular smoking of 2.7 years.51
Pregnant women/new mothers
- About 13% of pregnant women are smokers.53 This is down from 16% in 2008.
- Pregnant women under 20 years-old (31%) and Māori (35%) are more likely to be smokers.
- Pregnant women living in the poorer communities (24%) are more likely to be smokers than those living in the wealthiest communities (4%).
- Smoking during pregnancy is the leading cause of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) and accounts for 86% of SUDI cases between 2006 and 2010 (in comparison, if the mother is a non-smoker the rates of accounted SUDI is 14%).54
As young adults move out of home and establish new careers, friends and experiences the development of a smoking habit is an area of real concern. Research says that if you can make it to 25 years-old you will likely never smoke, however too many young adults are being caught in the addictive cycle of smoking. Currently 12.9% of young adults 18 to 24-years-old are smoking daily.55 Young adults often minimise the risks and addictiveness of tobacco and for these reasons and so much more you need to think about your relationship with cigarettes and where it will lead!
Preventing tobacco use among youth is critical. Today most youth in New Zealand are smokefree with 3% of 15 to 17 year-olds currently smoking (this is down from 14% in 2006/07).56
A biennial study of Year 10 students (14 to 15 year-olds) reports daily smoking rates are 1.9%.57 This is at an all-time low and is down from 15.2% when the survey began in 2000. More than 80% of young people have never had a puff of tobacco.58
Everyone should be aware of the risk factors that contribute to young people experimenting and starting to smoke regularly. Consider some of the factors below and what you can do to support smokefree youth:
The social and physical environment:
- media and social influences that depict smoking as a ‘normal’ activity can promote smoking to youth.
- having friends who smoke – increases access and reinforcement of smoking especially as a social activity.
- having parents who smoke and/or allow smoking in the house.
- the family environment – attitudes towards smoking and parenting style.
- the school environment and how they create and support smokefree environments.
- being able to access cigarettes and tobacco – particularly from family or friends.
- being able to afford to buy cigarettes and tobacco.
- low self-esteem.
- taking part in risk-taking behaviours.
- are doing well at school
- have future aspirations
- take part in community activities or sports clubs
- belong to a religion or have a spiritual practice
- are connected with their family.
Smoking prevalence from the ASH Year 10 Survey65 (of 14 and 15 year-olds) found that in 2018:
- 5.2% of Māori youth smoked daily, 11.6% were regular smokers, and 63.3% never smoked.
- Māori girls have had the highest daily smoking rates across all youth.
- Daily smoking rates for Māori youth has shifted from 5.9 to 5.2% in the last two years (2016 -2018), and are a long way from the smoking rate in 2000 which was 31%.
- 2.9% of Pacific youth smoked daily, 6.0% were regular smokers, and 75.4% never smoked.
- In 2000 daily smoking amoung Pacific students was 18.1%.
Where to find more information
- The Kupe data explorer which includes the 2012 to 2016 as well as the 2018 Health and Lifestyles Survey results.
- The Tobacco Control Data Repository has all New Zealand’s tobacco data in one location.
- The Ministry of Health Tobacco Use 2019/20: New Zealand Health Survey has information about tobacco use by adults over the age of 15 years, across different population groups (age, sex, ethnicity and neighbourhood deprivation); as do many other MOH reports.