Smoking has become unaffordable and uncool for many teenagers according to a new survey which shows the habit declining among the young.
The annual Action on Smoke and Health (ASH) smoking 2010/2011, released today, shows smoking among 14- and 15-year-olds at its lowest since the survey began in 1999, and recorded the largest annual decline in daily smoking by youths since 2003/2004.
The Year 10 ASH Snapshot survey, sampling about half of all Year 10 students across the country, is the largest of its kind.
It showed the number of daily smokers dropped from 5.5 per cent to 4.1 per cent over the period, and the number of regular smokers (daily, weekly or monthly) dropped from 10 per cent to 8.2 per cent of all students.
ASH director Ben Yourdon put the drop in smoking levels across the board down to tax hikes.
"I think probably the biggest factor in terms of the reduction in youth smoking has been the recent tax increases.
The tax on cigarettes has increased by about 30 per cent over the last 18 months, and I think that's had a huge impact because young smokers are especially sensitive to how much cigarettes cost."
Society's perception around buying and smoking cigarettes was changing, with more communities and councils discussing smoke free zones, he said.
"We're getting more and more quit attempts by adults as well. The environment in which these young people are growing up and the way in which they are being exposed to tobacco and the risk factors around smoking is also undergoing a change, and I think that's influence which is trickling down to their behavior.
"The rates in which smoking is going down....are quite indicative that perhaps smoking is not as cool as it was, it's not being considered as an expression of being grown up and independent, but actually being independent is being able to make strong choices not to start smoking in the first place."
He said 14- and 15-year-olds were surveyed because that was the average age at which New Zealanders picked up the habit.
"Almost every single smoker has started before they were 18. So surveying this age group is really important in terms of understanding about young people taking up smoking, the reasons they take up smoking, and helping us implement policies and campaigns which are going to help prevent them from starting in the first place."
Maori youth remained the largest smoking group, with 18 per cent of Maori youths surveyed classified as a regular smoker.
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My Own Words
People who are smoking are getting less and less. According to the survey, cigarettes are becoming too expensive for teenagers to buy. The Action in the Smoke and the Health (ASH) reported a drop in smoking because of the tax hike. Another reason for the drop in smoking is risk factors.
I think smoking is very unhealthy because first of all you get bad breath, black teeth and yellow nails but the worst of them all is cancer.