James Bond might have stubbed out his last cigarette - but the spectre of smoking still lingers over 007's films today.

That's according to Kiwi researchers who found that just one of the 24 films featuring Ian Fleming's famous fictional spy is smokefree.

The authors of the study, published today in the BMJ, say it's not simply a case of live and let die, given links between teens taking up the habit and smoking in movies.

Although 605,000 Kiwi adults smoke, more than 700,000 have given up and more than 1.9 million New Zealanders have never smoked regularly.

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Yet 6 per cent of youths between the ages of 15 and 17 smoke, as do nearly a quarter of young adults between 18 and 24.

The new study of Bond films - the highest grossing and longest-running movie franchise in history - comes after two systemic reviews last year found concerning associations between adolescents starting smoking and exposure to it on screen.

Several studies have delved into various aspects of Bond's lifestyle, but there hadn't been any detailed consideration of smoking-related content and its potential health impact since the suave spy first lit up in 1962.

Otago University public health researcher Professor Nick Wilson and co-author Anne Tucker analysed these themes in the 24 Bond movies screened by Eon Productions, from 1962 (Dr No) up to the latest, Spectre, in 2015.

They found that Bond's on-screen smoking peaked during the 1960s, when he puffed away in 83 per cent of the movies produced in that decade, after which it declined until he took his last puff in 2002 (Die Another Day).

Halle Berry and Pierce Brosnan in the 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day. Photo / File
Halle Berry and Pierce Brosnan in the 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day. Photo / File

When he was a smoker, he lit up, on average, within 20 minutes of the start of the film.

Although smoking has declined among Bond's sexual partners over the decades, it is still happening, as seen most recently in 2012 in Skyfall.

Smoking by his sexual partners would have exposed Bond to considerable levels of second-hand cigarette smoke, although the typically brief nature of his romantic liaisons would have curbed some of the impact, suggest the researchers.

Smoking-related spy gadgetry had a relatively short lifespan in Bond movies, peaking in the 1970s in 80 per cent of the films produced during that decade, but never to be seen again after 1989.

And cigarette branding featured in two movies: in 1979 (Marlboro in Moonraker); and in 1989 (Lark in License to Kill), as part of a product placement deal with Philip Morris to open up the Japanese cigarette market.

Overall, smoking-related imagery was absent in only one movie in 2006 (Casino Royale).

In the most recent movie, in 2015, none of Bond's major associates smoked, but other characters still did, adding up to an estimated 261 million "tobacco impressions" for 10- to 29-year-olds in the US alone.

Aucklander Roger Green is shown here auditioning at Pinewood Studios in England as James Bond for the 1971 movie Diamonds are Forever. Photo / File
Aucklander Roger Green is shown here auditioning at Pinewood Studios in England as James Bond for the 1971 movie Diamonds are Forever. Photo / File

The researchers noted that there had been attempts in the Bond series to mention or depict the hazards of smoking, the first of which came in 1967 (You Only Live Twice), and subsequent references in 1974, 1979, 1997.

And in 1999, Miss Moneypenny hurls Bond's gift of a cigar into the bin in disgust (The World Is Not Enough).

But although there have been some "favourable downward smoking related trends in this movie series, the persisting smoking content remains problematic from a public health perspective, especially given the popularity of the series," they wrote.

And they suggest that although smoking seems to be at odds with Bond's need for physical fitness and his level of educational attainment, it did fit with his disregard for other risks to his health.

After all, 007 has dodged thousands of bullets, he drinks a lot of alcohol, and often drives very fast, they point out.

And that's without a goodly proportion of his sexual partners - nine out of 60 - attempting to disable, capture or kill him.