The figures were released in an annual national survey of Year 10 (fourth form) students’ smoking habits.
Figures from the Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) study show 8.2 per cent of students surveyed said they were regular smokers in 2011 – a significant drop from 28.6 per cent in 1999.
The positive figures are reflected in the Waikato District Health Board region, with only 8 per cent of Year 10 students saying they smoke regularly – a 19 per cent decline from 1999 figures.
Less than 4 per cent of students said they smoked daily, while 71.3 per cent said they had never lit up.
Ash’s Michael Colhoun said the survey results were “very exciting” and reflected a continuing decline in young teens smoking. Three tobacco price hikes in the past 18 months had also impacted smoking figures.
“We don’t know who buys tobacco but we do know cigarette price increases do stop youth from smoking or continuing to smoke,” he said.
A pack of 30 cigarettes can retail for $21.20 in Waikato dairies. From July, retailers will not be able to display cigarettes in their stores and will have to keep stock out of sight.
Teenagers spoken to by the Waikato Times said many young people had mixed views about smoking.
Momoko Abe, 16, a foreign exchange student at Hamilton’s Fraser High School, said smoking was seen as unappealing and too expensive.
Fraser students Shaolin Fergus and Livvy Short, both 16, said a teenager’s decision to smoke was often influenced by having a family member who smoked. Smoking among their peers was still quite common.
“A lot of people see smoking as quite unattractive, especially if it’s a girl who smokes. But a lot of girls think guys who smoke are quite cool,” Livvy said.