Māori students lead the way, as teen smoking falls to record low – new ASH survey

By Te Ao - Māori News
Photo source / Auahi Kore

Māori students lead the way in significant declines in smoking by tauira of all ethnicities, according to ASH's newly released Year 10 survey.

The survey has found that the daily smoking rates of Māori students have decreased a "massive" 40% since 2019, with only 3.4% smoking daily in 2021.

Smoking rates among 13 and 14-year-olds have fallen to a record low, while curiosity-driven vaping has risen, the study says.

The number of Year 10 students who smoke cigarettes daily has dropped from around 2% in 2019 to 1.3% in 2021.

“This is the biggest fall in youth smoking rates in a decade, and it’s extremely encouraging to see young people leading the progress towards a smokefree Aotearoa.," says ASH director Deborah Hart, who said the survey results are consistent with trends in young adults shown by the 2021 NZ Health Survey. 

Hart says vaping is on the rise, with the fall in smoking accompanied by an increase in daily vaping from 3.1% in 2019 to 9.6% in 2021.

"Vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking. However, we don’t want youth to take up vaping, she says.

“The main reason students gave for vaping – 39.8% – was ‘just to give it a try’. While for those who vape daily, the most common reason was because they enjoy it – 31.1%.

“Today’s teenagers are no different to yesterday’s teenagers; they like to experiment and have fun."

The survey found that more than 75% of students are getting vapes from social sources, either friends, older people or family. Only 7.6% of those who regularly vape say their main source of vapes was a vape shop, dairy or online.

“The most important thing we can do for our teenagers is to help them make good choices for themselves," says Hart.

She says the government’s recently introduced vaping regulations will further protect teenagers by banning vaping advertising and sponsorship, and sales to young people.

The ASH Year 10 survey is one of the largest and longest-running surveys of youth tobacco and vaping behaviours and attitudes in the world. It has run annually since 1999. with the exception of 2020 which was cancelled because of Covid-19. In 1999 it found 15.6% of Year 10 students smoked cigarettes daily.