The once-cool appeal of smoking to teens now appears to have been stubbed out, with new research showing young Kiwis are discouraging mates from the harmful habit.
Otago University researchers behind the study were also encouraged to see it was Maori and Pacific teens who were most likely to talk peers out of smoking.
Drawing on an earlier survey, which canvassed nearly 3000 14 and 15-year-olds from 142 high schools, the team found around half of them had done at least one thing in a year to discourage smoking, most often by telling mates smoking was bad for their health, that it was a waste of money, or that they just didn't like it.
That compared with the one in 10 who did something to encourage it, usually by giving someone a cigarette or offering to share one.
Study lead author Dr Louise Marsh said the findings flew in the face of assertions by the tobacco industry that smoking among young people is due to peer pressure.
"It was also encouraging that Maori and Pacific young people were more likely to discourage smoking than young people from other ethnicities."
Those students who discouraged smoking were also more likely to report exposure to anti-smoking messages from a range of sources, including classes at school, smokefree events and smokefree adverts.
This suggested that smokefree promotion could spur young people to spread the message themselves.
US research had shown the effectiveness of "peer-to-peer influence" in reducing smoking among young people and, here in New Zealand, the Health Promotion Agency's Stop Before You Start campaign had helped shape social norms around non-smoking.
"Our findings demonstrate that a lot of informal youth-to-youth health education is already happening in New Zealand," Marsh said.
"This could be extended to engage young people as active ambassadors of Smokefree 2025."
The study, just published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, was co-authored by researchers from the Cancer Society of New Zealand and NZ Health Promotion Agency.
Vaping helps smokers quit: study
Meanwhile, a Kiwi academic says new evidence showing how "vaping" appears to be helping smokers quit calls into question restrictions around e-cigarettes.
A US study, published in the BMJ and based on the largest representative sample of e-cigarette users to date, signalled e-cigarettes had brought about a population-level drop in smoking.
The scientific community remains divided over whether e-cigarettes, which mimic smoked tobacco products, are an aid to quitting smoking.
Some suggest vaping will have a positive impact on smoking rates by acting as a nicotine replacement therapy, while others argue that they could reduce the urgency to quit smoking.
The US study found how 38 per cent of 22,548 surveyed current smokers and 49 per cent of 2,136 recent quitters had tried e-cigarettes - and that "vapers" were more likely than non-users to try quitting, with rates of 65 per cent versus 40 per cent, and more likely to succeed in quitting for at least three months, with rates of 8.2 per cent versus 4.8 per cent.
In an editorial featuring in the same journal, University of Auckland Professor of Public Health Chris Bullen questioned whether other tobacco control interventions operating at the same time may have been key triggers to the increase.
But the study nonetheless mounted a "convincing case for why the two most likely candidates - a large federal tobacco tax increase in 2009 and a nationwide mass media campaign - could not be stand-alone reasons for the change in cessation rates".
While the research did not include a consideration of safety, there was a growing body of evidence that using e-cigarettes was far less harmful than continuing to smoke tobacco, Bullen said.
"Policymakers in countries contemplating a more restrictive approach to the regulation of e-cigarettes should pause to consider if pursuing such a course of action is the right thing to do for population health."
Bullen's research group, the National Institute for Health Innovation, is undertaking several research studies that examine the role of e-cigarettes as aids to quitting smoking.
In New Zealand, the number of people regularly using e-cigarettes is low, at 16 per cent, but appeared to be increasing year on year, and the most common reason for use was to quit smoking.
The Government is planning to change the law regulating e-cigarettes from the middle of next year at the earliest.
Proposed changes would legalise the sale and supply of nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquid as consumer products, and regulate nicotine and non-nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquid.
Regulations would prohibit sale to under-18-year-olds, allow retailers to display e-cigarettes and e-liquid at point of sale, ban vaping in workplaces and other areas where smoking is not allowed, and set requirements for product safety.