New Zealand Health Survey data shows daily smoking rates are decreasing, but remain highest in those aged 45-64.
Middle-aged Kiwis are some of the country’s heaviest smokers with some of the lowest quit rates, smokefree advocates say.
More than two-thirds of smokers are over 35, and many are likely long-term, dependent smokers, Action for Smokefree 2025 (Ash) director Ben Youdan said.
“This is the generation facing smoking-related illness in the next 10–15 years.”
Youdan said while we have been “incredibly successful” preventing youth smoking, the median age of smokers has risen from a median age of 25 to 35.
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The 2021/22 New Zealand Health Survey released late last year showed about 331,000 Kiwis (8%) still smoke.
This was down from 9.4% the previous year and 16.4% in 2011/12.
Youdan said, with Smokefree 2025 two years away “we need to support the remaining smokers, who are at most risk from smoking-related death and disease” to quit, more than ever.
Where does this claim come from, and does it stack up? (First published June 2022)
From July 1, 2024, the number of retailers able to sell smoked tobacco products will decrease.
From April 1, 2025, the amount of nicotine allowed in smoked tobacco products will reduce.
And from January 1, 2027, it will be prohibited to sell smoked tobacco products to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009.
Hāpai te Hauora said that while the new legislation demonstrates a step forward, the Smokefree 2025 goal of fewer than 5% of people smoking is “far from complete”.
While progress has been made in reducing smoking rates, vulnerable communities continue to bear the brunt of tobacco-related harm, they said.
Data shows smoking rates have declined for all ethnic groups except Pacific people and that large ethnicity and socioeconomic status inequities remain.
Interim chief executive Jason Alexander said focus or urgency to achieve a smokefree Aotearoa can’t be lost.
“To do so would risk unnecessary delays, increased expenses, and most importantly, more loss of precious lives,” he said.
Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan was one of the strongest in the world and is “regularly recognised for its bold, unapologetic measures”
The action plan is an “extremely important health priority”, given smoking kills about 4000–5000 people and causes “countless” hospital visits annually.
Verrall said there was a solid reduction of smoking rates even during “stressful times”, such as during the pandemic, so “we are on track to achieve our goals”.
There is a focus on key groups, such as Māori and Pacific peoples, and low-income earners facing “marked inequities” in health, caused by higher smoking prevalence.
“Evidence-based” actions were being taken, including significantly reducing the availability, appeal and addictiveness of smoked tobacco products, to support all New Zealanders take the step to quit – which Verrall said is “one of the best decisions” you can make for your health.
Advice around quitting smoking:
- Use a stop smoking service and talk to Quitline or your GP about options available to help you quit
- It is never too late to quit smoking
- Don’t give up on giving up
- Nicotine replacement therapy can make it easier for you to stop smoking
- Enlist support from whānau and friends – or make it a challenge together
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