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Smoking rates continue to decline

30 September 2005

Smoking rates continue to decline, with promising signs for Maori

Initiatives to reduce smoking in New Zealand are continuing to produce reductions in the number of people smoking and the amount of tobacco they consume.

The Ministry of Health's annual Tobacco Facts publication has been released and it is estimated that in 2004 the percentage of adult New Zealanders smoking decreased to 23.4 percent.

The Deputy Director-General of Public Health, Dr Don Matheson says "Congratulations are due to all of those smokers who have managed to kick this addictive habit, and to the people who have supported them. While there have been gradual decreases in the numbers over the last decade, we're now looking at steepening declines in both the number of people smoking and the amount of tobacco consumed. I'm particularly pleased to see that Maori are represented in these steepening declines. The number of adult Maori smoking has dropped since 2002 from 52 percent to 47 percent."

"This is important because tobacco is a leading cause of preventable deaths in New Zealand which makes it a significant contributing factor to the health inequalities between Maori and non-Maori. To see Maori starting to enjoy the rates of decreasing tobacco consumption is very promising."

"We're also pleased to see reductions in the number of year 10 teenagers who smoke, including Maori and Pacific teens. The numbers have been falling among European and other groups for some time, but in the two most recent ASH surveys (2003 and 2004) similar falls are being seen among Maori and Pacific males and females. This survey also shows that while the numbers who do smoke are decreasing, the numbers who have never smoked is increasing so the trends are all heading in the right directions."

"Health promoting organisations like Te Reo Marama, the Quit Group and the Smokefree Coalition and all of their workers should be very pleased with these results. They're often dealing with individuals or small groups of people, and this shows what a big impact they are having."

Looking at District Health Board populations of year 10 smokers, Waitemata, Auckland, Counties-Manukau, Lakes and West Coast are among those to have seen the biggest reductions.

Dr Matheson says "All DHBs have success stories. These numbers are reward for the very good work done by District Health Boards, Smoke-free Hospitals and Primary Health Organisations, the tobacco control NGO's and groups providing cessation services. Reducing the numbers of people who smoke is a combined effort using different approaches including health promotion, taxation, legislation and smoking cessation programs like subsidised Nicotine Replacement Therapy."

The publication, Tobacco Facts 2005 is available at


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