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Smoking Consumption Falls

Health Minister Annette King said today she is delighted smoking consumption has fallen again in the past year, with New Zealanders smoking less than ever before.

Tobacco Facts 2000, an information sheet produced by the Ministry of Health, shows that tobacco released for consumption in 1999 dropped by five percent compared with 1998, and was almost 60 percent less than the amount of tobacco released for consumption in 1970.

"The reduction in consumption is great news for the health of New Zealanders," Mrs King said. "It is likely to be strongly linked to the tobacco tax increase in 1998 and other initiatives put in place over the last few years to support people wanting to quit smoking."

In May 1998 there was a 50c (GST exclusive) increase in the excise on a packet of 20 cigarettes, with similar increases for other tobacco products. "This change was associated with a six percent drop in total consumption in the nine months after the change. The further tax increase of $1 in May this year is also expected to deliver similar, or better, results," Mrs King said.

"On World Smokefree Day I now urge people to take the next step - to set a date for quitting and to commit to it. Ask your family and friends to support you, or ring the National freephone Quitline, 0800 778 778."

Mrs King said the less happy news was that the overall percentage of smokers remained reasonably static in the 1990s, dropping two percent.

There had been little decline in smoking prevalence for women under 25, she said. In 1999, 33 percent of females aged 15-24 smoked, and 30 percent of males, and about half of Maori adults continued to smoke. "These statistics suggest we need to significantly boost our efforts to encourage smokefree lifestyles in New Zealand and to support people who want to quit."

For more information contact John Harvey, (04) 471 9305. A full copy of the Tobacco Statistics 2000 can be found on the Ministry of Health website http://www.moh.govt.nz

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