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Survey - Youth Smoking Increase May Have Stopped

14 July 1999


Figures from the 1998 survey of fourth form students indicate the tailing off of an earlier trend evident between the 1992 and 1997 surveys, when fourth formers' smoking rates increased sharply, the Ministry of Health reported today.

"Despite the increase between 1992 and 1997, the 1998 figures are good news for New Zealand, and if it continues will buck a trend evident overseas," said Dr Gillian Durham, Director of Public Health.

Between 1992 and 1997, daily smoking by fourth formers increased from 11.6 percent to 15.2 percent. In 1998, this figure reduced to 14 percent. Daily, weekly or monthly combined smoking prevalence increased from 23.4 percent of fourth formers in 1992 to over 28 percent in 1997. In 1998, this decreased to around 27 percent.

The number of males and female fourth formers smoking reduced by eight percent between the 1997 and 1998 surveys, to 12.5 percent and 15.4 percent respectively. The 1998 survey found that smoking rates for Maori fourth formers, while far higher than for non-Maori of the same age, also reduced during this time. The rate of smoking for Maori male fourth formers decreased from 24 percent to 21.8 percent, while the female rates reduced from 39.2 percent to 37.6 percent. Likewise, smoking rates for Pacific Island young people dropped slightly.

"These figures are encouraging and suggest that the smokefree strategy, introduced in 1996 to reduce smoking by young people, may be starting to kick in."

In 1996, the Why start? multimedia campaign began, there was increased enforcement of the ban on sales of cigarettes to minors, more smokefree sponsorship of sporting and cultural events, and more smokefree schools programmes. In 1997, the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act banned sales of tobacco to people under 18, sales of the ?kiddie packs? of 10 cigarettes, and the sale of single cigarettes. In May 1998, the tax on tobacco products was increased.

?These strategies were introduced in response to concern about youth smoking rates. And now it looks like the measures put in place may be turning that increase around.

?We still have a long way to go with youth smoking rates. In the first instance, we need to ensure that this downwards trend continues, and further surveys will need to be undertaken to ensure that this is the case.

"But this decline shows how vital it is for these smokefree initiatives for young people to continue and be built upon."

The surveys also showed that between 1992 and 1997 (1998 purchasing results are not yet available) young people found it increasingly difficult to purchase cigarettes. Students who were refused a sale of cigarettes increased from 24.9 percent in 1992 to 62.3 percent in 1997. Students who had difficulty buying cigarettes increased from 6.6 percent in 1992 to 27.9 percent in 1997.

The number of students purchasing cigarettes for themselves decreased from 60.4 percent in 1992 to 38 percent in 1997 and there was decreased purchasing from dairies and supermarkets. Conversely, purchasing of tobacco from takeaway shops, tobacconists and vending machines increased.

Dr Durham said this change could largely be attributed to the Ministry of Health's controlled purchase operation programme in which ?test purchases? of cigarettes are made by young people between 13 and 16 years of age, often resulting in prosecution of the retailer who sold.

"The survey results, along with recent initiatives, such as the Health Funding Authority's national manned quit smoking line and trials of nicotine replacement therapy for Maori women, show that New Zealand has an effective, comprehensive tobacco control programme."

Summary of 1992, 1997 and 1998 results

Proportion (%) of 4th form students smoking cigarettes at least once a day in 1992, 1997 and 1998, by sex and ethnicity.

| Ethnicity | Students smoking at least once a day

| ---------------| 1992 N (%) 1997N (%) | | | 1998N (%) |


| European | 448 (10.9%) 413 (12.7%) | | | 398 (11.0%) |

| Maori | 98 (15.0%) 154 (24.0%) | | | 144 (21.8%)

| Pacific Island | 36 (12.2%) 44 (16.7%) | | | 43 (16.0%)

| Asian | 8 (3.7%) 33 (7.0%) | | | 35 (8.3%)

| Total | 590 (11.2%) 701(14.0%) | | | 620 (12.5%)


| European | 499 (9.8%) 596 (14.0%) | | | 530 (12.5%)

| Maori | 241(30.8%) 268 (39.2%) | | | 280 (37.6%)

| Pacific Island | 40 (10.9%) 78 (22.7%) | | | 60 (20.0%)

| Asian | 3 (1.0%) 17 (3.3%) | | | 31 (5.6%)

| Total | 783 (11.9%) 959 (16.5%) | | | 901 (15.4%)

Fourth formers smoking prevalence

· daily, weekly or monthly combined smoking prevalence increased from 23.4 percent of fourth formers in 1992 to 28.2 percent in 1997. Prevalence then decreased to 27.4 percent in 1998 · daily smoking increased from 11.6 percent in 1992 to 15.2 percent in 1997, and decreased to 14 percent in 1998 · the increase in daily smoking between 1992 and 1997 was higher in girls (44%) than boys (28%). Between 1997 and 1998, daily smoking in girls decreased by 8 percent to 15.4 percent, and also decreased by 8 percent in boys to 12.5 percent.


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