Drug Usage In NZ

If we can be SmokeFree 2025, why not DrugFree 2025 also?


The great news is that smoking rates in New Zealand continue to reduce, with 16% of adults currently smoking (this has dropped from 25% in 1996/97). Although 605,000 New Zealand adults still smoke, over 700,000 have given up smoking. The number of Year 10 pupils who said they were regular or daily cigarette smokers has dropped from about 25 percent in 2001, to about 5 per cent in 2017 – 2017 ASH Year 10 Snapshot.

Though smoking is down, around 5000 people die each year in New Zealand because of smoking or second-hand smoke exposure. That’s 13 people a day.

A report published the Ministry of Health in 2016 estimated that the total cost of smoking to New Zealand’s health and welfare systems was $2.5 billion in 2014. Tobacco excise tax currently raises approximately $1.5 billion gross per year.

“New Zealand only has seven years left to achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal.”
Helen Clark, patron of Action for Smokefree 2025 (ASH)

ALCOHOL – 8.4% – 15% 

In 2012/13, 15% of New Zealanders aged 15 years or more who drank alcohol in the past year has a potentially hazardous drinking pattern (79% of New Zealanders aged 15+ drank alcohol in the past year).

8.4% of the past-year drinkers consumed a large amount of alcohol (more than six standard drinks for males or four for females on a drinking occasion), at least once a week.

20% women who had been pregnant in the past 12 months reported that they had consumed alcohol while pregnant (Ministry of Health, 2015).


Just 3.7% use cannabis on a weekly basis. 11% have used it in the last 12 months (2013)


One in six (16.6%) adults had used any drug for recreational purposes in the last 12 months, equating to 438,200 people.

The prevalence of having used drugs for recreational purposes in the last 12 months was highest for the following drugs:

  • cannabis (14.6%) (2010)
  • BZP party pills (5.6%)
  • ecstasy (2.6%)
  • amphetamines (2.1%)
  • LSD and other synthetic hallucinogens (1.3%). (2010)

Illegality keeps prices high and use relatively low.

There is no adequate reason why government can persistently and successfully target smoking and not do likewise with drugs.

The end goal of the anti-smoking campaign is not ‘slow down’ or ‘moderate’ but ‘QUIT’, and a realistic understanding about the effort required to reach that end, with numerous strategies and support agencies assisting on the journey. And the numbers overwhelmingly suggest that it is working.