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 Aotearoa New Zealand continue to reduce, with 9.4%  of adults being daily smokers 1 (387,000 people) and 10.9% of adults being current smokers (451,000 people) 43

Although 387,000 of adults in Aotearoa still smoke daily, over 1,101,000 have given up smoking43 and 65% have never smoked regularly. 83

Daily smoking rates in Aotearoa 2020/21 are:

Demographic Percentage
Adult smokers (15+) 9.4% 43 (down from 18% in 2006/07  39 and 11.6% in 2019/20 48)  
- Smoking rates among all adult women are 9.2% and among all adult men are 9.5%  43
Youth aged 15–17 1.1% 43 (down from 14% in 2006/07  39  and 3% in 2019/20 48)
Young adults 18-24 8.1% 43  (down from 25% in 2006/07 39 and 12.9% in 2019/20 48)
Māori adults

22.3% 43  (39% in 2006/07 39  and 28.7% in 2019/20 48)

- Smoking rates among Māori women are 24.1% and among Māori men are 20.5%

Pasifika adults

16.4% 43 (25% in 2006/07 39  and 18.3% in 2019/20 48)

- Smoking rates among Pasifika women are 15.9% and among Pasifika men are 16.9%

European and other

8.3% 43 (14.7% in 2011/12 39  and 10.1% in 2019/20 48)

- Smoking rates among European/Other women are 8% and among European/Other men are 8.6%

Asian adults

3.9% 43 (7.9% in 2011/12 39  and 7.4% in 2019/20 48)

- Smoking rates among Asian women are 1% and among Asian men are 6.1%

Figure 1. Current smoking prevalence in Aotearoa from 1983 to 2020

Sources: Tobacco Trends 2008: A brief update of tobacco use in New Zealand, Ministry of Health, 2008; New Zealand Health Survey, Ministry of Health; 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 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Adults 15+ years (currently smoking) 33 32 30 30 30 29 26.5 27.8 25.8 27 27 27 27 26 26 25 26 25 25 25 25 22.8 23.7 20.1 20 21 19.7 19.7 18.2 17.7 17.4 16.6 16.3 15.7 14.9 14.2 13.4 10.9
Year 10 students (regular smoking)                                 28.6 27.9 24.8 22.1 20.7 17.6 16.8 14.2 12.8 11.9 10.9 10 8.2 7.7 6.8 6.1 5.4 4.7 4.9 5 5.9  
Did you know?42,43
  • 25-34 year olds are the age group with the highest smoking rate at 14.6% 
  • Māori women have the highest smoking rate at 25.8%, followed by Māori men at 25.6%
  • Smokers are more likely to have poor mental health than non-smokers.
  • Smokers are more likely to binge drink
  • The average age someone will start smoking is 14.8 years 
  • An adult living in the most socioeconomically deprived area is over 6 times more likely to be a current smoker as an adult living in the least deprived area, and over 7 time more liekly to be a daily smoker (adjusted for age, gender and ethnicity)
  • In 2018, the daily smoking rate for 14 and 15 year olds fell to 1.9%, the lowest rates ever 5

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

Māori

Traditionally, Māori peoples did not smoke. However, when tobacco was introduced to Aotearoa in the 18th century due to colonisation, 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.

  • Daily smoking rates for Māori adults in 2020/21 are 22.3% (132,000 people), and current smoking rates for Māori adults are 25.7% (152,000 people) 43 
  • Māori are 3.06 times more likely than non-Māori to be daily smokers (adjusted for age and gender) 43
  • Māori are 2.94 times more likely than non-Māori to be current smokers (adjusted for age and gender) 43
  • Māori women are 3.36 times more likely to be current smokers compared to non-Māori women (adjusted for age and gender) 43
  • Māori smokers are the youngest group to start smoking, at just over 14 years of age 48

Pasifika peoples

Pasifika  peoples have the second highest smoking rates after Māori and are also more likely to have negative health outcomes than the non-Pacific population 50

  • Daily smoking rates for Pasifika adults in 2020/21 are 16.4% (46,000 people) and current smoking rates for adults adults are 19.9% (55,000 people) 43
  • Pasifika are 1.81 times more likely than non-Pasifika to be daily smokers (adjusted for age and gender) 43
  • Pasifika are 1.86 times more likely than non-Pasifika to be current smokers (adjusted for age and gender) 43
  • The average age of Pasifika peoples start smoking is 16.6 years
  • Pasifika smokers have the quickest transition from experimentation to regular smoking of 2.7 years 51

Hapū māmā and pēpē 

  • About 13% of pregnant women are smokers.53  This is down from 16% in 2008.
  • Hapū māmā who are under 20 years of age have a smoking rate of  31% and Māori hapū māmā have a smoking rate of 35%
  • Hapū māmā living in the most deprived areas have a smoking rate of 24%. This is 20% higher than those living in the least deprived areas, where there is a smoking rate of 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. ​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! 55

  • Daily smoking rates for 18-24 year olds in 2020/21 are 8.1% (37,000 people) 43
  • Current smoking rates for 18-24 year olds in 2020/21 are 11.8% (53,000 people) 43 

Rangatahi

Preventing tobacco use among youth is critical. Today most youth in Aotearoa are smokefree with 1.4% of 15-17 year olds being current smokers (this is down from 14% in 2006/07) and 1.1% being daily smokers. 56,43

Daily smoking rates in Year 10 students  (14 -15 year olds) in 2021 were 1.3%.8This 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

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 2018:

Percentage breakdown by ethnicity of ASH Year 10 Snapshot Survey students who were never smokers 2000-2018
  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
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 84.55 85.4 86.5
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 59.16 59.5 64.3 63.3
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 70.48 70.8 76.9 75.4
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 91.67 92.4 93.1
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 78.65 79.4 82 81.1
  • 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

 
Footnotes
  1. Daily smoker: has smoked more than 100 cigarettes in lifetime and currently smokes at least once a day

  2. Current smoker: has smoked more than 100 cigarettes in lifetime and currently smokes at least once a month

Page last updated: 7 Apr 2022