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New Zealand smokefree rate at record low

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister of New Zealand
Hon Damien O’Connor
Associate Minister of Health

30 May 2008 EMBARGOED 11AM Media Statement

New Zealand smokefree rate at record low

New Zealand’s smoking rate has fallen to its lowest level since monitoring of tobacco use began more than thirty years ago, Prime Minister Helen Clark and Associate Health Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

Results from the Ministry of Health’s 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey - the largest survey of New Zealanders’ health ever completed - puts New Zealand’s smoking prevalence at a record low of 19.9 per cent for current smokers (aged 15 years and over).

“This is the first time any survey has shown our smoking rate heading below 20 per cent, since monitoring of tobacco use began more than three decades ago. This shows that initiatives over time like prohibiting smoking in indoor workplaces, including bars and restaurants, banning tobacco advertising and sponsorships, and subsidising nicotine replacement therapy do work,” Helen Clark said.

“I was Minister of Health and responsible for the first smokefree environments legislation passed through Parliament in 1990, and I am proud of what New Zealand has achieved.

The figures released show that daily smoking rates for adults have also experienced significant decreases. Since the last survey, the adult daily smoking rate has dropped by almost 5 percentage points - from 23.4 per cent of adults in 2002/03 to 18.7 per cent in 2006/07.

“Every one percentage point drop in smoking prevalence equates to about 30,000 fewer smokers,” Helen Clark said.

There have also been significant decreases among Māori in daily smoking rates between the two surveys. The rate for Maori men dropped from 42.9 per cent to 34.8 per cent and for Māori women it dropped from 51.0 per cent in 2002/03 to 40.1 per cent in 2006/07.

The rate among Pacific people dropped from 34.6 per cent in 2002/03 to 25.4 per cent.

Results from the 2007 Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Year 10 Survey also released today show a continued downward trend in smoking amongst teenagers in New Zealand.

“Under the Labour-led government, youth smoking rates have dropped from 28.6 per cent in 1999 to 12.8 per cent in 2007,” Helen Clark said.

The ASH survey also found that there had been a significant reduction in smoking initiation amongst Year 10 (aged 14-15 years) students. This is measured by the “never smoking” rate, which was 57.2 per cent.

“This result means that more than half our teenagers have never smoked cigarettes - not even one puff. That figure is well up from the 31.6 per cent in 1999,” Damien O’Connor said.

“I am determined to continue our momentum in the battle to combat smoking, which kills around 13 New Zealanders every day.

“There is still much work to be done. Tobacco control is a high priority for our Labour-led government. In this year’s Budget we committed an additional $32 million over the next four years to make even greater reductions in smoking rates and in the number of teens taking up smoking.

“We can and we must make even faster progress towards achieving our goal of a smokefree New Zealand and ensuring that more New Zealanders have the chance to live a healthy life,” Damien O’Connor said.

Ministry of Health’s 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey: www.moh.govt.nz

2007 Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Year 10 Survey: www.ash.org.nz

ENDS

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