Record number of Kiwis gave up cigarettes in the past year

Source: 1News

Nearly 100,000 people have quit cigarettes in the past year - the biggest decline ever recorded by the New Zealand health survey.

But the survey, carried out by the Ministry of Health, shows vaping is on the rise and among young people it's more popular than smoking.

Smoking has been declining over the past decade but in the last 12 months there's been a significant fall.

The proportion of New Zealanders smoking dropped from 11.9 per cent in the 2019-2020 survey to 9.4 per cent now. That's a decline from 485,000 daily smokers to 387,0000.

In comparison, 6.2 per cent, or 258,000 people, now vape, and for younger people (15-24 year olds) it's 12.4 per cent or about 81,000.

Auckland mum Ruby-Lee Toopi is among the record number of Kiwis stubbing out.

She's 23 and has smoked since she was 12, developing a “20 a day” addiction.

"I was desperate to even steal, to get whatever I can to buy cigarettes, and that's a shameful act that you end up desperately wanting the cigarette just to feed your habit," she told 1News.

She's now on her third attempt at quitting and has just done seven weeks without a cigarette.

She said the support of services like Ready Steady Quit and patches, gum, as well as vaping have all helped her give up. But she said her main motivation are her children.

"When my kids saw that anger when I didn't have what I wanted, that made me want to decide to quit. I don't want my kids to see me like that," said Toopi.

A public health lecturer and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) board member Collin Tukuitonga said the high price of cigarettes, hovering at about $35 a pack, is a factor in people giving up.

But he warns if the prices keep rising, "downside impacts" like people stealing, could outweigh the benefits.

"We may well have reached that in Aotearoa," said Tukuitonga.

Smoking rates among Maori and Pasifika are declining more slowly. But there's hope New Zealand can reach its goal of just five percent of people smoking by 2025.

"We've got a head start with young people not smoking and that's fantastic so we need to take our lead from them." said Tukuitonga.

More details on how the Government plans to achieve its smokefree goal will be revealed next week.