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Global Tobacco Use Is Steadily Declining

This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Felix Richter

In a bid to phase out smoking in its society, New Zealand plans to ban the sale of tobacco to future generations and progressively raise the minimum age for legally buying tobacco. The new law, expected to be passed in 2022, would outlaw the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2008 or later. "We want to make sure young people never start smoking," the country’s Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verall said.

It is the most drastic step in the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan that was introduced on December 9. While the ultimate vision of the plan is to transform New Zealand into a smokefree nation, the first goal is to reduce smoking prevalence among all population groups to below 5 percent by 2025. According to the country’s 2020/21 Health Survey, smoking prevalence currently stands at 10.9 percent, but differs widely between ethnic groups. For example, the daily smoking prevalence is much higher in the Māori population (22.3%) than it is among European New Zealanders (8.3 percent).

While New Zealand has long been at the forefront of tobacco control internationally, the global prevalence of tobacco use has been trending downward for the past two decades. According to WHO estimates, 22.3 percent of all people aged 15 and older used tobacco in 2020, down from 32.7 percent at the turn of the millennium. As the following chart nicely illustrates, the tobacco use rate is highest among 45- to 54-year-olds at 28.5 percent, while it’s just 14.2 percent among 15- to 24-year-olds.

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