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Fewer Teenage Smokers Is Good News, But More Work Needs To Be Done

The number of teenagers smoking cigarettes has dropped significantly, but reaching a Smokefree Aotearoa needs more hard work and community involvement says the head of Māori Public Health agency and sole Ministry of Health funded tobacco control advocacy service, Hāpai Te Hauora.

Jason Alexander, interim CEO of Hāpai te Hauora, says the annual ASH Year 10 Snapshot, a survey of 20 to 30 thousand students shows sharply reduced rates for daily smoking amongst Year 10 students, in particular young wāhine Māori, who have traditionally had far higher rates of smoking than their non-Māori peers.

Daily smoking rates among this group dropped by nearly half, from 6.8 percent in 2019 to just 3.7 percent in 2021, having sat stubbornly between six and seven percent since 2015.

"It’s great to see the move towards equity between young Māori women and other demographic groups, with the gap shrinking again after having stayed the same for the past five years," says Alexander.

However, when compared to last year’s New Zealand Health Survey showing overall smoking rates among 15-17-year olds as low as 1.1 percent, Alexander said more work needs to be done to ensure young Māori stay smokefree.

"In the past few years, the Ministry of Health and evidence has shown that the actual experience of young Māori and the social/whānau environment surrounding them has a significant effect on why young Māori take up smoking and what barriers they have to overcome in order to quit.

"Involving rangatahi, their whānau, and the broader community in the design and implementation of smoking cessation programmes is essential if we are to build on the successes we have had to date," says Alexander.

"When the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan / Auahi Kore Aotearoa Mahere Rautaki 2025 was released last year, the Ministry specified increasing the number of children and young people who remain smokefree as one of its three target outcomes," says Alexander.

"We’re making progress, but our young Māori deserve more. More community involvement and more support for the grassroots initiatives that are doing the mahi right around the country. On Tuesday 1 March Hāpai te Hauora is launching a new community activation fund which aims to ignite and support community activation and to champion Smokefree. It is great that young Māori leading the way, now let’s see if we can achieve the same outcomes among adult Māori"

Hāpai te Hauora holds the regional Māori public health contract for Tāmaki Makaurau-Auckland as well as five national service contracts covering gambling harm minimisation, tobacco control advocacy, mental health & addiction, and SUDI prevention.


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