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Who’s still smoking – and who’s not?

The number of New Zealanders who smoke is declining, but just over 16% of us continue to light up.

There are direct social and economic benefits from giving up. These include saving $177 a week or $9,200 a year for someone who smokes a pack a day, and having another decade (on average) of life to spend with family and friends.

According to figures gathered by the New Zealand Health Survey (2015/16), the number of us who smoke is declining. However, a sixth of the population aged over 15 still use tobacco and among some population groups that’s much higher.

  • In total, 16.3% of all New Zealanders aged over 15 years currently smoke – around 610,000 people.
  • The number of New Zealanders smoking is continuing to decline – 25% of us smoked in 1996/97.
  • Smoking is highest among Māori (38.6%) and Pacific peoples (25.5%).
  • The biggest group of people who smoke are aged 25-34 (23%) and 18-24 (22.7%).
  • Most smokers try to quit, with 64% saying they tried in 2012/13 and 58% of them quit for at least a week.
  • An estimated 11% (82,000) of people who tried to stop smoking successfully quit in 2012/13 (this has increased from 8% in 2006).
  • Those in the most socioeconomically deprived neighbourhoods are three times more likely to smoke than those in the least deprived.
  • The average age of uptake (more regular smoking behaviours) varies across the four main ethnic groups, with Māori starting at about 17 years old, European/Pakeha around 17.5 years old, Pasifika just over 19, and Asians at about 22 years old.

Looking for more information? See New Zealand's tobacco-use data in one location in the Tobacco Control Data Repository

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