Te Ara Hā Ora is committed to advancing Māori tobacco control by collecting and disseminating research that will help to guide, inform and provide strong 'evidence based' foundations for Māori working in the tobacco control sector.

Māori and smoking 

Smoking is most prevalent for Māori then any other ethnic group.  Approximately 800 Māori die annually from smoking-related diseases.
Key Findings:
  • Nationally 32.7 percent of Māori adults identify as being current smokers – double the smoking rate of non-Māori.
  • Around 22 percent of Māori deaths are attributable to smoking, compared to 20 percent for non-Māori
  • Māori have much higher rates of smoking than Non- Māori, and as an ethnic group Māori contribute over $260 million in tobacco taxes each year


Rangatahi Māori

The ASH Year 10 Snapshot is an annual cross-sectional census of 14 and 15-year-old school students’ smoking prevalence.  All schools with year 10 classes are invited to participate, with around 30,000 year 10 students participating each year.  The number of students identifying as Māori who completed the survey was 6,304 (20% of respondents) compared to 24,717 (80% of respondents) counted as non-Māori. Of those who identified as Māori, there were 3,023 boys (48%) and 3,281 girls (52%). 
This factsheet describes daily, regular and never smoking for Māori boys and girls compared to non- Māori boys and girls in New Zealand along with a number of useful graphs.
Key Findings:
  • From 2000-2014 there has been a 23.88% drop in smoking amongst year 10 Māori students, from 31.05% to 7.17%.
  • In 2014, the gap between Māori and non-Māori daily and regular smokers narrowed slightly but the decline was statistically insignificant. 
  • Māori girls have consistently had the highest daily smoking rates of Māori and non-Māori boys and girls since 2000.
  • In 2014 Māori girls were more than three times more likely to be a regular smoker than non-Māori girls. Māori boys were also more than three times more likely to be regular smokers than non-Māori boys.
  • 7.17% of Māori and 1.71% of non-Māori students were daily smokers in 2014.
  • 5.4% of Māori boys and 8.8% of Māori girls were daily smokers. 1.73% of non-Māori boys and 1.69% of non-Māori girls were daily smokers.
  • 13.19% of Māori and 4.19% of non-Māori students were regular smokers.
  • 9.74% of Māori boys and 16.76% of Māori girls were regular smokers. 3.81% of non-Māori boys and 4.56% of non-Māori girls were regular smokers.
  • 56.74% of Māori and 82.08% of non-Māori students were never smokers.
  • 62.87% of Māori boys and 51.08% of Māori girls were never smokers. 81.64% of non-Māori boys and 82.49% of non- Māori girls were never smokers.
*Daily smokers are those students who report smoking at least once a day
*Regular smokers include daily smokers along with students who reported smoking weekly or monthly. 
Youth 12’ is New Zealand’s largest and most comprehensive survey of the health and wellbeing of rangatahi Māori in high schools. Included in the survey is a range of factors that impact on the healthy development of rangatahi Māori, including smoking. The report presents Māori-specific findings from Youth’12, the third national health and wellbeing survey of secondary school students in New Zealand.  The information presented in this report was provided by 1,701 students who reported Māori ethnicity in 2012 (20% of the entire sample). Also reported are Māori data from the 2001, 2007 and 2012 surveys to identify trends over time.
Key Findings:
  • The survey showed Maori high school students have cut back on cigarettes (and alcohol), despite financial stress and fewer job opportunities
  • The rate of regular smoking for Māori secondary school students has dropped by half since, from 16.5% in 2007 to 8.3% in 2012.
  • A higher proportion of taitamariki who lived in high deprivation areas smoked weekly (10.7%) compared to those living in medium deprivation areas (7.9%*).


Hapū Māmā

Smoking during pregnancy is associated with a 25 percent increased risk of miscarriage. On average smokers have babies that are 200-250g lighter than non-smokers. Low birth rate is associated with increased illness and risk of death in infancy. Women who smoke during pregnancy are 40 percent more likely to experience a still birth than non- smokers. Babies who are born to smokers are 40 percent more likely to die within the first four weeks of life than those born to non-smokers.
Key Findings:
  • Thirteen percent of non-Māori and 39 percent of Māori women in New Zealand smoke during pregnancyii. Each year around 18 000 unborn babies in New Zealand are exposed in the womb to toxins from tobacco smoke
  • The risk of premature birth is twice as high for women who smoke than for non-smokers.
  • Smoking during pregnancy increases the child’s risk of pneumonia, asthma and glue ear.iv
  • Stopping smoking before pregnancy avoids the risks to the child. Stopping in the first three months of pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of low birth rate.
  • Quitting smoking at any time during pregnancy will have some benefit to the child.
  • Secondhand smoke or passive smoke also poses risks to the unborn baby.
  • Women who are exposed to passive smoking during pregnancy have increased chance of premature birth and low birth weight babies.
  • Babies of smokefree fathers are a safer weight at birth and have a lower risk of SIDS (cot death)
  • Breastfeeding mothers who smoke produce, on average 250ml less milk per day. The quality of the milk is also affected and is of poorer quality with fewer lipids than non-smoking mothers.


Māori and tobacco related disease

Smoking harms almost every organ in the body, and in New Zealand it is responsible for nearly 5000 death per annum.  At least 50 percent of all regular cigarette smokers will eventually be killed by their addiction.
Key Findings:
  • Māori experience a 10 percent greater mortality rate from smoking than non-Māori
  • Each year, 22 percent of deaths in Māori men and 21 percent of deaths in Māori women are attributable to smoking
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related deaths for Māori men. Māori are three times more likely than Non-Māori to die from lung cancer



Other useful websites:

Tobacco Control Research Tūranga
Tūranga is a multi-disciplinary network of researchers from across New Zealand.  The website showcases some of the latest innovations and research in Māori tobacco control.
The Quit Group
Provides links to a number of publications, many with particular reference to Māori and Māori smoking rates
The Smokefree Coalition
Provides some quick facts about Māori and smoking
Ministry of Health
The Māori Smoking and Tobacco Use 2011 profile presents information related to the tobacco use of Māori compared with non-Māori, using findings from the Tobacco Use in New Zealand: Key findings from the 2009 New Zealand Tobacco Use Survey (NZTUS 2009).  The purpose of the profile is to provide an overview of Māori smoking and tobacco use with easy-to-use statistical information