Niue ahead of the pack as smoking rates fall

Tuesday 23 July 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Noumea – The latest data to be published on smoking rates in Niue show that this small, isolated Pacific nation may be well on its way to achieving the goal of being ‘smoke free’ by 2025.

Results just published from the 2011 WHO STEPwise approach to Surveillance (STEPS) survey, which surveyed almost everyone residing in Niue, show that smoking rates have fallen to just 11.6% overall. More men than women smoke, with just under 16% of males smoking on a daily basis, compared to 7.6% of females.

A study undertaken over 30 years ago in Niue showed that smoking rates were significantly higher in the past, with averages of 58% for males over 15 and 17% for females over 15. At that time as many as 60% of the overall male population were smokers.

Jeanie McKenzie, Adviser on Non-Communicable Diseases and Tobacco Control at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) says, ‘This represents significant progress for Niue, particularly with getting smokers to quit. Niue has had a long-standing smoking cessation service which can claim one of the highest quit smoking rates in the Pacific’.

The relatively high price of tobacco, coupled with continued public awareness about the harms from smoking and environmental tobacco smoke are considered to be the key reasons for the drop in smoking prevalence.

To continue to reduce smoking rates, which would help the country reach the World Health Assembly target of reducing premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by 25%, by 2025, Niue could revitalise its Tobacco Control Bill, continue to increase the price of imported tobacco, enforce smoking bans in public places and villages, and ensure that cigarettes are not sold to minors.

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