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Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the world and New Zealand.
It is responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide – about five million deaths each year, 13,500 deaths per day. It kills over 4500 New Zealanders every year, including around 350 from exposure to second-hand smoke.
The World Health Organization defines tobacco control as
"a range of supply, demand and harm reduction strategies that aim to improve the health of a populace by eliminating or reducing their consumption of tobacco products and exposure to tobacco smoke."
In New Zealand, the amount invested in tobacco control by the Government has increased from under $1 million in 1996, to around $56 million per annum today.
The negative health effects of smoking are numerous. Smoking is the underlying cause of many diseases including cancers, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, heart disease and stroke. It is a major cause of blindness. On average a non-smoker's life expectancy is 79 years, while a smoker's average life expectancy is 65 years.
Prior to the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, exposure to other people’s tobacco smoke, or second-hand smoke, is estimated to have killed around 350 New Zealanders each year.
Statistics and trends
The Ministry of Health's New Zealand Health Survey gives a snapshot of New Zealanders' health and wellbeing in 2011/12. It reports smoking rates continue to decrease – but not for everyone. Less than one in five adults (15 years and over) were current smokers (i.e. they smoke at least monthly), with most smoking daily. The rate of current smoking was 19 percent for men and 18 percent for women.
The daily smoking rate has fallen since 2006/07 (from 18 percent to 17 percent), particularly among youth aged 15-17 years (from 14 percent to 6 percent). However, smoking rates for Māori have not changed since 2006/07 and remain high, with 41 percent of Māori adults still smoking. Pacific adults also had higher smoking rates, with one in four (26 percent) smoking.
The Ministry of Health's 2009New Zealand Health Survey found that approximately one in five adults (21 percent) were smokers. Also, around one in five (18 percent) youth aged 15-19 years were smokers, a significant decrease from 23 percent in 2006. The age-standardised prevalence of smoking in 15-64-year-olds fell significantly between 2006 (24.4 percent) and 2009 (21.8 percent).
Among 15-64-year-olds: 49.3 percent of Māori females and 40.2 percent of Māori males were smokers; 28.5 percent of Pacific females and 32.3 percent of Pacific males were smokers; 18.9 percent of European/Other females and 20.6 percent of European/Other males were smokers; and, 4.4 percent of Asian females and 16.3 percent of Asian males were smokers. There was no change in the smoking rate for 15-64 year old Māori males or Māori females over the years 2006 to 2009.
The odds of daily and regular smoking by Year 10 students (14 and 15 years old) have dropped significantly between 2006 and 2010 for both female and male students. These results come from the ASH Year 10 Snapshot Survey, which has been used to monitor student smoking and risk factors for smoking since 1999. The 2010 Snapshot Survey found that 5.5 percent of all Year 10 students reported that they smoke at least daily.
10 percent of all students were 'regular' smokers (smoke at least monthly, weekly or daily). 64.3 percent of all students had 'never smoked', not even a few puffs of a cigarette. As seen in preceding years, the highest prevalence of smoking was reported by Māori females and by students from low decile schools. Almost one in five Māori female students smoke daily (17.4 percent), compared to one in thirty New Zealand European female students (3.3 percent). However, the proportion of Māori female students who report that they have never smoked continues to increase, up from 18.1 percent in 2005 to 34 percent in 2010.
Further smoking information and statistics can be found in:
Statistics NZ web site
To find out what the statistics and trends are in your region/community, try sourcing information from:
This will provide information on demographics in your community, to help you build a picture and identify trends.
What's in tobacco?
Tobacco contains over 400 chemicals which are released when it is smoked. There are 40 known cancer-causing substances. There is no known safe level of smoking.
New Zealand has strong tobacco control legislation, with bans on tobacco advertising and sponsorship, smoking in indoor workplaces and on public transport, and on the sale of cigarettes to those under 18 years.
Indoor workplaces in New Zealand were required to be smokefree from 10 December 2004, following the passage of the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act 12 months earlier.
The smokefree provisions apply to all indoor workplaces, including bars, restaurants, clubs, casinos, offices, factories, warehouses and work canteens.
Schools and early childhood centres are required to be smokefree in buildings and grounds 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
An evaluation of the smokefree workplaces legislation (PDF 658Kb) has found high compliance and strong public support. There has been no negative effect on restaurant or bar takings, tourist numbers or employment.
For further information about smokefree legislation see www.smokefreelaw.co.nz.
You can find out more about smokefree policies implemented by local government at www.smokefreecouncils.org.nz.
You can find out more about smokefree policies and schools at www.smokefreeschools.org.nz.
History of tobacco control in New Zealand
People have used tobacco, or other plants that contain nicotine, for many centuries. Check out the history of tobacco use in New Zealand, from the pre-1900s to today.
Tobacco control organisations
Also see the New Zealand smokefree contacts map.
Tobacco Control Update archive
The Smokefree Coalition maintains political neutrality throughout all communications. We do not endorse or make donations to any political party.