Facts & figures

Information about New Zealand’s smoking rates and how they are changing.

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What are our smoking rates and how are they changing?

Smoking rates in New Zealand Aotearoa continue to reduce, with 17% of adults currently smoking, of which 15% smoke daily (this has dropped from 25% in 1996/97).34, 35

Although 605,000 New Zealand adults still smoke, over 700,000 have given up smoking and more than 1.9 million New Zealanders have never smoked regularly. 36, 37, 38

New Zealand’s smoking rates39 are:

Demographic Percentage
Adult smokers (15+) 17% (down from 20% in 2006/07)
- With higher smoking rates among men (18%) than women (15%)
Youth aged 15–17 6% (down from 16% in 2006/07)
Young adults 18-24 24% (down from 28% in 2006/07; however this age range now has the highest smoking rates of any age group)
Māori adults 38% (40% in 2007)
Pacific adults  24% (26% in 2007)
European and other 15%
Asian adults 6%
And people are smoking less.

In 2014, the amount of tobacco people smoked reached an all-time low of 734 cigarettes per adult.40 Between 2010 and 2014, tobacco consumption (including standard cigarettes) per adult decreased on average by 6.3% annually.41

Figure 1. Smoking prevalence in New Zealand from 1983 to 2012 Sources: Tobacco Trends 2008: A brief update of tobacco use in New Zealand, Ministry of Health, 2008; New Zealand Health Survey, Ministry of Health, 2012; Year 10 Snapshot Survey, Action on Smoking and Health
  1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
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
Year 10 students (currently smoking)                                 29 28 25 22 21 18 17 14 13 12 11 10 8 8 7 6 5
Did you know?42,43
  • Men are more likely to smoke at 18% than women at 15%.
  • However, Māori women have highest smoking rate at 42% (Māori men 34%).
  • 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.
  • 18-24 year olds have the highest smoking rate, 24%.
  • In 2014, the daily smoking rate for 14 and 15-year-olds fell below 3%, the lowest rates ever.44

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.45

Māori

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.

  • The smoking rate for Māori adults is 38%.46
  • Māori men – 34%, Māori women – 42%.
  • Māori are 2.5 times more likely to be smokers than non-Māori.47
  • Māori smokers are the youngest to start smoking, at just over 14-years-old on average.48

Pacific peoples

  • The smoking rate for Pacific adults is 24%.49
  • Pacific men – 27%, Pacific women – 23%.
  • 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 smokers have the quickest transition from experimentation to regular smoking of 2.7 years.51

Smoking rates of Pacific adults living in New Zealand 2013/1452

  Regular Smoker (%) Ex Smoker (%) Never Smoker (%)
Samoan 22 12 66
Cook Island 30 16 54
Tongan 23 12 65
Niuean 26 15 59
Fijian 13 13 74
Tokelauan 32 19 49
All Pacific people 23 13 64

Pregnant women/new mothers

  • About 15% of pregnant women are smokers.53
  • Pregnant women under 20 years-old (31.8%) and Māori (34%) are more likely to be smokers.
  • Pregnant women living in the poorer communities (23.6%) 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

Young adults

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 24% of young adults 18 to 24-years-old are smoking.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!

Youth

Preventing tobacco use among youth is critical. Today most youth in New Zealand are smokefree with 6% of 15 to 17 year-olds currently smoking (this is down from 16% in 2006/07).56

A biennial study of Year 10 students (14 to 15 year-olds) reports current smoking rates are less than 3%.57 This is at an all-time low and is down from 15.2% when the survey began in 2000. Around three-quarters of young people have never had a puff of tobacco.58

Of those young people who do smoke nearly half said they wanted to stop smoking, and three in five tried to stop smoking in the past year, of which one in five remained smokefree.59

Risk factors for starting smoking60, 61

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.

Young people less likely to smoke if they:62, 63

  • 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 2014:

Percentage breakdown by ethnicity of ASH Year 10 Snapshot Survey students who were never smokers 2000-2014
  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
NZ European 33.55 36.47 39.72 43.86 49.7 52.63 58.49 61.85 66.29 68.8 70.56 76.53 77.53 80.78 82.26
Māori 16.2 18.54 18.48 22.09 24.95 25.94 30.47 32.64 34.64 38.59 40.15 46.17 44.35 53.22 56.74
Pacific 35.24 35.17 36.99 38.3 40.76 41.15 45.38 49 52.39 55.23 53.97 61.14 55.68 66.47 70.15
Asian 62.44 68.2 68.05 71.55 75.26 74.1 78.85 80.34 81.81 84.3 84.24 88.27 87.42 89.73 91.14
All 33.03 35.89 38.36 42.44 46.98 49.4 53.98 57.28 60.72 63.98 64.35 70.44 70.11 75.07 76.93
  • 7.2% of Māori youth smoked daily, 13.4% were regular smokers, and 56.7% never smoked.
  • Māori girls have had the highest daily smoking rates across all youth.
  • Daily smoking rates for Māori youth has shifted from 8.5 to 7.2% in the last year (2013 -2014), and are a long way from the smoking rate in 2000 which was 31%.
  • 3.3% of Pacific youth smoked daily, 6.6% were regular smokers, and 70.2% never smoked.
  • There has only been a very small drop in daily smoking among Pacific students in the last year from 3.8 to 3.3% (2013-2014) – however in 2000 this was 18.1%.
  • 1.6% of European/Pākehā youth smoked daily, 4.3% were regular smokers, 82.3% never smoked.
  • Nearly a quarter of European/Pākehā students who participated in the survey in 2000 were daily smokers.
  • 0.7% of Asian youth smoked daily, 1.5% were regular smokers, and 91.1% never smoked.
  • Although Asian youth smoke the least this has shifted from 7.5% in 2000 and continues to decrease each year.

Where to find more information

Page last updated: 29 Aug 2017