Hāpai Te Hauora the voice of Tobacco Control Advocacy encourages people to look closely at the recent New Zealand Health survey results to gain a full picture of the health of New Zealanders.
Lance Norman, Chief Executive Officer of Hāpai Te Hauora points to the 15-16 age group where smoking rates are at 6.1%, “If you look at this percentage in isolation you could make the assumption that we are on track for the Government supported goal of a 5% smoking rate by 2025. However when you look at this result alongside other categories, a worrying pattern emerges of gender and age uptake shifts”.
It turns out that there has been a steady increase over time of smoking uptake particularly among young men between the ages of 18-24. In the 2012-13 Health Survey men between the ages of 18-24 were at 23.6%, 2013-14 26.4%, the following year 26.8% and now 28.8%. There also seems to be a shift in smoking uptake by women from ages 18-24 to 25-34.
Disappointedly Māori smoking remains at 38.6%, Pacific at 25.5%, compared to European at 14.5%. Smoking by Māori men is reported at 37.3% an increase from the previous year’s 34.0%. Although we are not yet clear on how significant the upward movement for Māori men is, the change indicates a need for closer monitoring and further investigation. Māori women smoking at 39.7% shows no significant change.
Māori and Pacific also reported their self-rated health to be lower than Europeans, and rates of physiological stress were higher than Europeans. Not going to the GP for unmet health care due to the cost was also highlighted as a barrier by more Māori and Pacific than European.
Dr Lance O’Sullivan, 2014 New Zealander of the Year and Advisor to the Hāpai Tobacco Control Advocacy service states that “the health survey provides us with a clear sign that we need increased action to stop the rapid uptake of cigarettes now currently occurring in the over 17 year age group. It also re-emphasises that we need to continue our focus on reducing Māori and Pacific smoking".
Hāpai encourages consideration of the social and economic complexities of health care for Māori and Pacific when planning for action, and supports regular and ongoing mass media campaigns, e-cigarette availability, coupled with a reduction in tobacco outlet accessibility.
Stop smoking services alone cannot be responsible for getting all population groups to 2025, a suite of supportive strategies aimed at both treatment and prevention is best practice.