MidCentral teenagers turning their backs on tobacco

With about one in 100 year 10 students lighting up daily, the MidCentral region has the lowest percentage of smokers in that age group in the country.

Just 1.35 per cent of students aged 14 and 15 in the MidCentral District Health Board area smoked daily last year, the latest annual survey by Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) shows.

Regular smokers, defined as those who smoke daily, weekly or monthly, made up 3.42 per cent of those surveyed, while almost three in four - 74.31 per cent - never smoked. This is a sharp drop from 2012, when 4.4 per cent of respondents reported smoking daily and 7.9 per cent regularly.

Nationally, 3.2 per cent of those aged 14 and 15 smoked daily and 6.8 per cent reported they smoked regularly.

"It's a huge drop," Ash communications manager Michael Colhoun said of the MidCentral figures. "It's very impressive, certainly a good improvement, and three-quarters of MidCentral have never smoked at all, which is very positive."

He said although the figures looked very low, the data was robust.

Census figures released in February indicated that 12.6 per cent of 15- to 19-year-olds in the Manawatu-Whanganui region smoked regularly last year, down from 23.2 per cent in 2006.

Colhoun said recently there had been more smokefree areas in Palmerston North and also a smokefree campaign led by city shops.

"Hopefully the trend continues for the current year's survey as well."

Meanwhile, Wairarapa has the highest incidence of smoking among year 10 students, with 5.21 per cent lighting up daily and 11.85 per cent smoking regularly.

Colhoun said Ash would still like to see more done to curb smoking, including licensing tobacco the same way alcohol was.

He expected plain packaging would have an effect, but also would like higher tax increases on tobacco.

"We certainly think larger increases would lead to more people not smoking, and it certainly would discourage youth uptake as well. But what has been done in the tax area has been positive."

The survey sampled 27,921 year 10 students around the country, almost half the 57,929 year 10 students enrolled in New Zealand schools.

Manawatu Standard