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Article | Socio-demographic characteristics of New Zealand adult smokers, exsmokers and non-smokers: results from the 2013 Census

ASPIRE 2025, together with colleagues formerly from the Health Promotion Agency, have a new paper published in the NZMJ on smoking prevalence from the 2013 Census. This provides detailed information on smoking by age/gender/ethnicity/SES and changes since the 2006 Census.



To describe the smoking prevalence by key socio-demographic characteristics (age, gender, ethnicity, education, labour status, income and socioeconomic deprivation) in New Zealand in 2013 and make comparisons with 2006.


Data on cigarette smoking and key socio-demographics variables were obtained from the 2013 New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings. Age standardised smoking prevalence rates were calculated by gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic deprivation using the WHO Population Standard. Results were compared against 2006 Census data to identify changes in smoking prevalence.


In 2013, around one in seven (15.1%) of New Zealand adults aged 15 years and older reported that they were regular smokers (smoked one or more cigarettes per day), a 5.6% absolute decrease in the smoking prevalence since the previous Census in 2006. The number of regular adult smokers dropped from 597,792 in 2006 to 463,194 in 2013, a 22.5% decrease. Falls in smoking prevalence occurred among all demographic sub-groups, including Maori and young adults. There were substantial disparities in smoking by age, ethnicity and socio-economic status. Maori continue to have the highest age-standardised smoking prevalence (32.4%), with the highest prevalence (43.1%) among young Maori women aged 25 to 29 years. Decreases in smoking prevalence were greater between 2006 and 2013 than between 1996 and 2006.


The findings suggest that the decline in smoking prevalence is accelerating in New Zealand, including among high priority groups like Maori, Pacific peoples and young adults. This study confirms the value of census data for understanding patterns of tobacco use in New Zealand, to inform effective intervention development and monitoring progress towards the Smokefree 2025 goal.


Tu, D., Newcombe, R., Edwards, R., Walton, D. (2016) Socio-demographic characteristics of New Zealand adult smokers, exsmokers and non-smokers: results from the 2013 Census.  N Z Med J. 2016; 129:43-56

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For more information  or to request a copy of the paper, please contact:

Richard Edwards
University of Otago

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