Teen smoking drops 30pc - study

By Susannah Goodman

A new study shows a 30 per cent cut in the number of teenagers smoking - days after the Government announced a $12 million reduction in funding for anti-tobacco initiatives.

The Year 10 Snapshot Survey conducted by the Action on Smoking and Health lobby group found that the number of children aged 14 to 15 who smoke daily is one-third what it was a decade ago, while the number who have never smoked has doubled.

Ash director Ben Youdan said the decline was largely due to youth-focused anti-tobacco campaigns, the most recent of which was "Smoking - Not Our Future".

However, the agency that runs this campaign is the one bearing the brunt of the spending cuts, with its budget being cut by $2.5 million a year.

Mr Youdan said the cuts could mean that people would not get the "best possible value" out of the quit services available to them.

He said the rate of non-smoking among teenagers had dramatically increased over the past few years, and taking the funding away could slow this rate down again.

As well as the increase in anti-smoking campaigns, the use of graphic warnings on tobacco packaging was pinpointed by the report's author, Dr Janine Paynter, as having a significant effect on the results.

According to Dr Paynter, a research and policy analyst for Ash, the introduction of these warnings in 2008 coincided with a sharp fall in the number of teenage smokers.

She said the survey also asked the students if they had tried to stop and why they had done so.

"Many said the graphic warnings were the reason they tried to quit."

Dr Paynter said the "most promising" survey result was the decrease in Pacific Island girls smoking.

The daily smoking rate among them has gone down by two-thirds since 1999 and Dr Paynter described this cut as "particularly pleasing".

"It means that the inequalities between the ethnic groups are decreasing."

Dr Paynter was also happy with the decrease in the number of teenage Maori girls smoking - which was half what it was when the the survey started in 1999.

However, this was still the group most likely to smoke - with 18 per cent saying they smoked daily.

Five thousand deaths a year in New Zealand are attributed to tobacco and 700,000 New Zealanders are regular smokers - most of whom began when teenagers.

Dr Paynter said there were several ways to cut the rate of teenage smoking.

One "well overdue" change would be to remove tobacco advertising and displays in shops, which would "provide an extra boost in removing tobacco from young people's lives".

Ash spokesman Michael Colhoun agreed that this would be a good policy change.

"It's something that's urgently needed, and it would be straightforward and easy to do."

TEEN SMOKING ( per cent)

1999
Daily - 15.6
Never - 31.6

2009
Daily - 5.6
Never - 64

TEENAGE SMOKING (DAILY) BY ETHNICITY ( per cent)

1999
Maori - 23.6
Pacific - 16.6
NZ European - 12.6
Asian - 7.9
Other - 9.1

2009
Maori - 11.1
Pacific - 6.0
NZ European - 3.2
Asian - 3.2
Other - 3.0

- NZ Herald

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