New survey finds teen smoking falls to record low in New Zealand

A new survey has found that teenage smoking rates have fallen to a record low in New Zealand. 

Smoking rates among 13 and 14-year-olds are currently at a record low while curiosity-driven vaping has risen, the 2021 Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Year 10 survey has found.

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

"The results of the 2021 survey shows teenagers have already reached the Smokefree 2025 goal of less than 5 percent smoking daily (95 percent smokefree)," ASH director Deborah Hart says. 

"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 survey also found a significant decline in smoking by students of all ethnicities. Māori students led the way with a massive decrease of 40 percent in daily smoking rates since 2019. 

It also found that only 3.4 percent smoked daily in 2021.

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," she says.  

"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." 

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark. Photo credit: AM Show

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

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

 "The main reason students gave for vaping - 39.8 percent - was 'just to give it a try'. While for those who vape daily, the most common reason was because they enjoy it - 31.1percent. 

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

More than 75 percent of students are getting vapes from social sources, either friends, older people or family. Only 7.6 percent 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," Heart says. 

"The Government's recently introduced vaping regulations will further protect teenagers by banning vaping advertising and sponsorship, and sales to young people."