Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand, accounting for between 4,300 and 4,700 deaths every year.  When deaths associated with exposure to second hand smoke are included in these figures, the rate rises to over 5,000 per year.  Research indicates that smoking causes one in four of all cancer deaths in New Zealand, and increases the risk of respiratory disease, circulation problems, urinary tract and bladder disease, and diseases of the digestive tract.

It is known that almost all smokers start smoking as children, and in 2008, 12% of New Zealand 14-15 year olds smoked regularly (daily, weekly or monthly), and 7% smoked daily.  Currently, the average age of smoking initiation among New Zealand youth is 14.6 years, however this figure is significantly lower for Maori.  In a recent study of students aged 14-17 who smoked daily

­ - 30% of Maori males reported first trying a cigarette at seven years old or younger.

­ - 31% of Maori females first experimented at eight to nine years of age.  

Strategies for Health Promoting Schools

Legislation under the Smokefree Environments Act (1990) requires that management of schools/kura (including early childhood centres) take "all reasonably practicable steps" to ensure no person smokes anywhere in the school/kura or its grounds at any time.

Toi Te Ora has developed a simple self-audit survey to help you assess if your school complies with the Smokefree Environment Act (1990). Simply complete the form online and if the self-audit identifies that your school requires smokefree support, a Health Improvement Advisor will be in contact with you in the near future.

Did you know?

  • Half of all people who smoke today, and continue to do so, will eventually be killed from a smoking related illness, and will die an average of 15 years earlier than they would if they were a non smoker.

  • One in 10 children and one in 13 adult non-smokers are exposed to second-hand smoke in their home.

  • Teenagers are more likely to smoke if one or both parents smoke.

  • Only 3% of students who smoke daily report that neither parent smokes.

  • Having just one parent who smokes triples the risk of a student being a daily smoker.

  • Therefore minimising children’s observation of smoking has a major effect on whether they will copy this behaviour.

Information and guidelines on ways to support smokefree in schools can be found in our Guidance documents section.  In order to ensure sustainable changes in smokefree, it is important that these guidelines are implemented using a 'whole school approach'.   This means embedding smokefree messages and practices into Curriculum, teaching and learningSchool organisation and ethos and Community links and partnerships.

To see examples of what other schools have done, check out our Case studies section, and be sure to look through our  Resources for links to free toolkits, posters, booklets and other information to support your smokefree programme.

Page updated 12 Nov 2019