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New Zealanders smoking less

30 May 2001 Media Statement
New Zealanders smoking less

Tobacco consumption in New Zealand fell dramatically over the past year, particularly in the months following last May's tobacco tax increase, Minister of Health Annette King announced today (Thursday, 31 May), marking World Smokefree Day.

"New Zealanders are smoking less than every before, which will have huge benefits for everyone's health," said Mrs King. "Last year's tax increase appears to have helped deliver this result, along with a number of quit programmes that have also been put in place or enhanced by this Government. I'd encourage people to continue to take the next step and quit for good."

Early indications are that tobacco consumption fell by at least 10 percent, possibly much more, during 2000. However, following the 2000 Budget, tobacco products released for consumption dropped 18 percent between July 2000 and March 2001, compared with the same period 12 months earlier.

The fall in tobacco consumption is believed largely due to the 14 per cent tax increase in May 2000, which increased the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes by $1. The tobacco industry imposed an additional increase at the same time.

The percentage of New Zealanders who smoke continues its general downwards trend - from 26 percent in 1999 to 25 percent in 2000, according to survey results.

Although smokers are cutting back, a quarter of New Zealanders aged over 15 -- including one in two Maori adults -- continued to smoke in 2000. The average number of cigarettes smoked per smoker per day fell from 13 to 12 between 1997 and 2000.


A full copy of the Tobacco Statistics 2001 can be found on the Ministry of Health website ( and the National Drug Policy website (

Background Information

- Approximately 4700 people die each year from smoking-related illness.

- It is estimated that those smokers who die prematurely lose an average of 14 years of life compared with non-smokers.

- For Maori - each year 21 percent of deaths in female Maori are attributable to smoking and 22 percent of male Maori deaths.

- For Pacific People - each year eight percent of deaths in female Pacific People and 19 percent in male Pacific People could be avoided if smoking was eliminated.

- For European/Others - each year 10 percent of deaths in females and 19 percent in males are attributable to smoking.

- After a population takes up tobacco smoking, it takes 30-40 years before tobacco death rates reach their maximum. After smoking declines, there is a 10-year lag before death rates begin to drop.

- Over the past 24 years, the overall rate of smoking has dropped by 30 percent.

- Prevalence of cigarette smoking in ethnic groups aged 15 years and over in 2000 remained fairly static for European/other with just over one in five smoking. One in three Pacific People were smokers and one in two Maori.

- Initiatives the Government has put in place in recent years to reduce smoking rates, and amount smoked, include:

- a national media campaign "Every cigarette is doing you damage", encouraging people to quit smoking (started 1999)
- a national free-phone Quitline that people can call for advice and assistance to quit (started in 1999)
- a youth tobacco strategy (1996 - 1999) including:
- increased enforcement of the ban on selling cigarettes to children (continues)
- increased funding for the Health Sponsorship Council (continues)
- the "Why start?" media campaign (finished 1999)
- funding for a smokefree schools programme (continues)
- pilot programmes in six locations to help Maori women quit (using nicotine replacement therapy and counselling) (started 1999).

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