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Progressing a smokefree Aotearoa for all peoples

This research theme recognises the devastating effect smoking has on New Zealanders and the disproportionate burden of harm borne by Māori and people experiencing high deprivation. It aims to reduce the health inequities caused by smoking by making tobacco less appealing and less available, and by fostering Māori leadership.



Professor Richard Edwards (Co-Director ASPIRE2025; Co-Director HEPPRU; Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington)

Anaru Waa (Co-Director ASPIRE2025; Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington)

Key researchers

Professor Nick Wilson (BODE3, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington), working in collaboration with the University of Melbourn)

Dr Louise Marsh (Social and Behavioural Research Unit, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago)

Dr Jude Ball (Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington)

Dr Robin Quigg (Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago)

Completed projects

Qualitative analysis of bar atmospherics and young adults’ smoking experiences

This study examined whether and how outdoor bar areas facilitate and normalize young adults’ smoking, and explored potential policy implications.


Comfortable and relaxing outdoor smoking areas in bars create an environment where smoking is expected and accepted, and facilitate smoking uptake among young adults . Expanding smokefree bar settings to include outdoor areas would reduce opportunities for casual smoking, which typically leads quickly to nicotine dependence and regular smoking.


Brillinger J, Marsh L, Hoek J. Bar atmospherics and smoking: A qualitative analysis of New Zealand young adult smokers. Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Current and upcoming projects

What is the impact of reducing tobacco supply?

This project examines the impact of reducing tobacco’s availability within more disadvantaged communities. Using ArcGIS software, the project is exploring two retail reduction scenarios: including 50% fewer retailers or 95% fewer retailers. The findings will provide new information on how reducing retail outlets may affect more deprived communities and will allow the risks and benefits of this approach to be analysed.

What is the impact of making electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) more available?

Although recent studies have concluded that increasing ENDS availability would achieve net health gain and cost savings, we know little about how the greatest health impact could be achieved. This study will model the impact of making ENDS available in different scenarios, such as via specialist stores where expert advice may be given to generic retailers, where expertise is typically not available. The modelling will also examine how cost incentives could promote switching from smoking to vaping.

Preliminary analyses undertaken to assess the harm of ENDS use relative to smoking are now under review. These analyses suggest the commonly quoted estimate that ENDS use is “95% safer” than smoking needs revision and overstates the potential benefit of switching from smoking to ENDS.

How could alcohol control influence smoking?

Young people often report experimenting with smoking when consuming alcohol. This study will model how hypothetical reductions in alcohol use could affect smoking initiation among young adults; reduced relapse among quitters; reduced consumption among smokers (i.e. instances of binge smoking). The proposed approach considers the inter-relatedness of risk and expands traditional approaches that focus solely on single risk factors.

What factors are associated with declines in adolescent smoking uptake?

This study will use existing high quality survey datasets in an in-depth exploration of determinants of health behaviours and how these have contributed to changes in prevalence over time. Specifically, we will identify determinants of adolescent smoking among Māori and non-Māori, and investigate whether additional factors such as cannabis and alcohol use, pocket money, parental attitudes, and level of engagement with digital media explain more recent changes in smoking prevalence among Māori and non-Māori adolescents.

Tirohia ki ngā whaitua auahi kore - Looking at smokefree environments

This project used a kaupapa Māori approach to develop and implement iwi-, hapū- and runanga-directed policies to increase the number, type and location of specific and relevant smokefree environments, such as workplaces, homes, sport clubs, and recreational areas. It will support iwi / hapu / runanga / non-iwi groups as they seek to develop and enhance smokefree environments, and create smokefree settings for tamariki and rangatahi.

Tirohia whakatātare ki ngā whaitua auahi kore – Looking further at smokefree environments

This project will use a kaupapa Māori approach to understand how indigenous activities and spaces support positive and healthy behaviours to create and maintain smokefree environments while maintaining, developing and sharing cultural knowledge. We will explore how signage in parks can support positive and healthy behaviours to maintain smokefree environments.

Analysing tobacco industry retailing strategies

Despite laws to control tobacco marketing, tobacco companies continue to find ways to encourage smoking. This study will increase our understanding of promotional strategies used by tobacco companies to encourage and maintain tobacco listings, develop loyalty to brands and companies among retailers, and support on-selling.

Analysis of tobacco and vaping retailer returns data

In this project we will analyse publicly available data sets (the “tobacco returns” data and the “vaping products returns” data) to track consumption of tobacco and vaping products. Work currently underway is examining movements in price partitions within the tobacco market over time, particularly following the introduction of standardised packaging.