The number of smokers in New Zealand has fallen to a historic low as the country pushes forward with ambitious plans to wipe out smoking in a generation, reports The Guardian.
Data showed the number of people smoking daily has dropped to 8 per cent, the lowest since records began, and down from 9.4 per cent in 2021.
Associate minister of health Dr Ayesha Verrall attributed the drop to government interventions, saying the “government’s plan to reduce smoking is working”. “The number of people smoking fell by 56,000 over the past year, despite the pressures and stress of the pandemic, and smoking rates are now half of what they were 10 years ago,” she said. The minister was “really pleased” to see the downward trend “given other countries saw an uptick in their smoking rates during lockdowns”.
With the overall smoking rate dropping to 8 per cent, New Zealand would be among the lowest prevalence countries in the world. The most recent OECD average was 16.5 per cent, with Australia’s rate at 10.7 and the UK’s at 13.8 per cent. However, it is likely that a significant proportion of New Zealanders who quit smoking switched to vaping. According to the latest data, the increase in daily vape users has been greater than the decrease in daily smokers, with 8.3 per cent of adults now vaping daily, up from 6.2 per cent last year.
In August, the New Zealand government introduced the world’s first legislation to prevent the next generation from ever legally buying cigarettes. The legislation, which passed its first reading, sets a steadily increasing minimum age for purchasing cigarettes so that teenagers can never legally buy cigarettes, creating a “smoke-free generation.” These measures are considered a world first – and have drawn a mix of praise for the innovation and concerns about their untested nature.