New Zealand smoking success puts Australia to shame

Posted on May 21, 2024 By Colin

THE UNPRECEDENTED DECLINE IN SMOKING in New Zealand since vaping was legalised and regulated in 2020 was highlighted in a presentation at the E-Cig Summit in Washington last week. The presentation by New Zealand ASH Director Ben Youdan showed how Australia is falling further behind in tobacco control.

Australia and New Zealand have shared similar tobacco control policies but New Zealand has traditionally had higher smoking rates. However, that has changed in recent years, reflecting the diverging views on vaping in the two countries:

The New Zealand Ministry of Health encourages smokers to quit with vaping and provides practical information on how to succeed. Vapers are treated with respect and support. Youdan said, "In Australia, vapers are treated as criminals or sick people incapable of self-determination".

Youdan pointed out that in Australia, only 8% of vapers have a prescription, and the vast majority source their supplies from an increasingly violent and dangerous black market. He noted the irony of deadly cigarettes being available at every corner shop and petrol station.

Since vaping was legalised and regulated in New Zealand in 2020, adult smoking rates declined by 43% over the next 3 years, more than twice as fast as in Australia

Daily smoking in NZ and AU (source NZHS 2022, NDSHS 2022/23)

Over this time there was a dramatic decline in Māori smoking rates, as the following figure shows for Māori women. In contrast, smoking by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders has fallen only marginally over the last decade.

Smoking in Māori  women (NZHS 2023)

Youdan pointed out that access to vapes is a social justice issue. People in low socio-economic groups have high smoking rates and high nicotine dependence. It is especially pleasing that the decline in smoking has been notable in the lower SES groups as well.

Youth vaping increased prior to regulation in 2020. Since then there has been a significant decline, while Australia’s youth vaping rate continues to climb.

Youth current vaping (NZHS 2023; NDSHS 2022-23)

It is also important to note that under the current regulations, Youdan said that New Zealand does not have a significant criminal market for vapes – in stark contrast to Australia

Finally, Youdan pointed out that New Zealand is on target to achieve its smokefree goal by 2025. That goal for Australia remains a long way off.

Full presentation

Ben Youdan. Pathways to smokefree New Zealand and Australia. E-cig Summit, Washington. May 2024

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