Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Unequal risks, unmet needs. Pacific people and tobacco in NZ

Sun striking the Clocktower

Thursday 24 September 2009 10:01am

Little government attention has been given to smoking by Pacific peoples in New Zealand, and there is no specific government plan to deal with this smoking.

Pacific people in New Zealand face increased health risks from tobacco, compared to the overall New Zealand population, because of higher smoking levels (30% Pacific compared to 21% of the whole adult population). Using the most reliable data (from the census) smoking by Pacific women increased from 23% in 1996 to 27% in 2006.

However, research from the University of Otago, Wellington has found some improvements; smoking by Pacific year 10 students, and smoking inside the homes of Pacific students, has declined sharply since 2000.

These are some of the findings from the first review of smoking by Pacific peoples, which has just been published online in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

"We found continued disparities in smoking prevalence between Pacific and other peoples in New Zealand. This disparity has continued despite being well known by government for over 15 years." says lead investigator Tolotea Lanumata, from the Department of Public Health at UOW.

"The situation is made more urgent by the rapid growth of the Pacific population in New Zealand. That population has a young median age, of only 21, and is projected to reach at least 480,000 by 2026."

The research concludes that a central government plan for Pacific tobacco control is required. The researchers found little focus by government on smoking by Pacific peoples, although some DHBs have separately developed specific plans aimed at these groups.

The study, based on an analysis of databases and websites, found that the picture appears more positive for smokefree homes and for Pacific youth. The prevalence of smoking by Pacific year 10 students reduced from 29% to 16% during 1999-2007. However, this decline was much less than for European youth (which in 2007 was at only 9%). Smoking inside Pacific students’ homes also declined from 35% to 26% during 2001-2007.

The health consequences of higher smoking levels in Pacific peoples are seen in lung cancer mortality rates which are twice as high for males and 1.4 times higher for females, compared to non/Maori/non Pacific.

Ms Lanumata said that "Because of the continued disparities, there is a need for much better funding of Pacific smokefree services. We also found strong calls for more specific interventions for Pacific Peoples."

This research was funded by the Health Research Council

For further information contact

Tolotea Lanumata
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel 64 4 385 5541 ext. 4058

Dr George Thomson
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel 64 4 385 5541 # 6054 or 6040 (messages)

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

Electronic addresses (including email accounts, instant messaging services, or telephone accounts) published on this page are for the sole purpose of contact with the individuals concerned, in their capacity as officers, employees or students of the University of Otago, or their respective organisation. Publication of any such electronic address is not to be taken as consent to receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages by the address holder.