By: Cherrie Howie

Smoking rates in New Zealand continue to fall. Photo / File

Youth smoking rates have dropped by a third in the last year, as a new generation of “never-smokers” emerges, Ministry of Health figures reveal.

The figures showed the number of 15 to 17-year-olds smoking fell from 12,000 last year to 8000 – meaning 3.9 per cent of those in the age group are smokers. A decade ago 35,000 people aged 15 to 17 had taken up the habit.

The latest annual health survey’s results published by the Ministry of Health indicate a continual decline in the smoking rate.

The current rate is 15.7 per cent, just over half a per cent down from a year ago – or 8000 smokers – and almost five per cent compared to a decade ago.

Quitline clinical director Sharryn Gannon said the smoking level was falling gradually, but the lingering effect likely to occur as a result of tens of thousands of young people not taking up smoking in the first place would be immense.

“We are finally seeing the majority of young people not taking up cigarettes, creating a new generation of ‘never-smokers’.”

The average age of a new smoker is 14.8, but research suggested if a people could make it to age 25 without taking up the habit it was likely they would never smoke, she said.

The number of Maori men smoking has also gone down, falling by just over 5 per cent to 32.2 per cent in the last year.

Each cigarette consumed will take an average of 11 minutes off a person’s life and the average smoker consumes 650 cigarettes per year.

More than 700 people a week contact Quitline, with many telling the service the increasing cost of cigarettes was a contributing factor in why they were kicking the habit, Gannon said.

E-cigarettes and vaping are also helping people quit smoking. Nicotine containing e-cigarettes are the most popular, as opposed to nicotine free.

Research from Public Health England stated e-cigs do appear to be 95 per cent less harmful than traditional tobacco, but plenty of research still needed to be done before the products could be fully assured as being safe, Gannon said.

Quitline can be contacted anytime by calling 0800 778 778 or visiting www.quit.org.nz

Source: NZ Herald

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