The number of people who smoke cigarettes daily has dropped to an all-time low of 8 percent, down from 9.4 percent this time last year.
But figures in the Annual NZ Health survey show the daily rate for Māori is still far higher: 19.9 percent, down from 22.3 percent.
While there has been a reduction in tobacco smoking, tobacco and e-cigarette use continues to grow, rising from 6 percent last year to 8.3 percent this year, with usage highest among 18-to 24-year-olds
Māori public health organisation Hāpai Te Hauora said more work was needed to help the country get to its Smokefree 2025 goal of 5 percent.
Smoking rates for non-Māori sat at 7.2 percent, and Hāpai Te Hauora wanted concentrated efforts addressing inequities for Māori and Pasifika taken seriously by the government.
Chief Executive Selah Hart said there were multiple measures including legislative measures to restrict the sale and supply of tobacco.
While there had been a drop in smoking rates, vaping and e-cigarette use surged, particularly among rangatahi aged 18 to 24.
Twenty-two-point-nine percent of vapers were Pākēha, 21.7 percent were Pasifika and 17.6 percent were Māori.
Hart said vaping was a double-edged sword: It was a helpful cessation device, but it was also introducing a habit for those who have never smoked.
“They are only getting the nicotine … so on one hand that’s a really great thing because we have removed a whole heap of chemicals going into those whānau bodies,” Hart said.
“We now need to re-look at our strategy and understand, okay, for those whānau who were people who never smoked and are now vaping, what are we doing to protect them and keep them away from the potential addiction to nicotine through these vape devices?”
Hart wanted more education and a targeted approach from the government as the number of rangatahi who vape continued to rise.
Students were being expelled and excluded from school because of their vaping habits, she said.
“That is absolutely the wrong way to go about this, it needs a health response. It’s a health issue, it’s an addiction issue, we shouldn’t be penalising kids from their education rights because they have an addiction issue.”