In New Zealand, just over 16% of people smoke cigarettes. Tobacco, which is found in cigarettes, contains nicotine which is an addictive substance that works as both a sedative and a stimulant. Smoking nicotine through a cigarette produces tar, which is a sticky brown substance that can be inhaled and cause more health problems. The tobacco industry often puts additives such as flavours into tobacco in cigarettes to make the product more attractive, addictive, and toxic. Smoking cigarettes is very harmful in a variety of ways, and quitting at any stage or age is advised.
The harm of smoking
Smoking cigarettes can affect you negatively in many ways. Approximately 5,000 New Zealanders die each year from cancer, stroke, or heart disease related to smoking. Approximate two-thirds of smokers will eventually be killed by the health effects of their smoking. If you are smoking regularly, you may decrease your life span by 10-15 years.
There are about 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, and more than 70 have been found to cause cancer. Smoking cigarettes has been shown to cause to negative health effects such as blindness, heart and lung diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, reduced fertility, and other problems with your lungs, skin, blood, and mouth health.
Second-hand smoke (when you are near a lit cigarette or near someone who is exhaling smoke) also causes many health issues. While second-hand smoke is harmful for anyone, it can be very harmful for children or vulnerable people. Even brief exposure can cause harm. Smoking in enclosed spaces puts people living in the same household at risk of inhaling second-hand smoke and at risk of the health consequences of tobacco. Children who are exposed may suffer from ear infections, asthma attacks, respiratory problems and infections, or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). For adults, the harm of second-hand smoke is similar to the harm of smoking for people who do smoke.
It is never too late to quit smoking and improve your health. Some of the main benefits of quitting include having more money to spend elsewhere, benefits for your relationships, and improvements in your health.
If you smoke a pack a day, you could save $207 a week or $10,800 a year by quitting. Some view this as a personal pay rise that gives you more money to spend or save each week. You can use this cost of smoking calculator to work out how much money you could save if you quit.
Friends and whānau
Family and friends are an important part of the quitting process. They can offer you support and encouragement as well as be an incentive to quit. Quitting may give you more time to be with your loved ones and improve your relationships with them. Smoking around whānau and friends, especially with children, will negatively affect their health because of the risk of second-hand smoke. By quitting smoking you can help protect your whānau and friends’ health and spend more quality time with them.
After quitting, your body will start to heal and regenerate to fix the damage caused by smoking. On average, a person who quits smoking can add another decade onto their life. According to Smokefree and Quitline, your body will begin healing straight away. Within 20 minutes, your blood pressure, body temperature, and pulse will return to normal. After 24 hours, your chance of heart attack decreases. Three days after quitting, your breathing should become easier, and after five days most of the nicotine will have left your body. Eventually your risk of developing illnesses relating to smoking will decrease as your lungs heal. You can find more information about the health benefits of quitting at Smokefree.
Methods for quitting
Quitting smoking can be challenging both mentally and physically because of how addictive nicotine is. For many, just going ‘cold turkey’ and stopping smoking in one day will not work. Some popular methods to help quit smoking include the use of patches, gum, and lozenges with nicotine in them, medications, vaping and e-cigarettes, and using a quit coach or Stop Smoking Service.
Nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges
You can get prescriptions for nicotine replacement therapy options such as nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges. These are designed to replace some of the nicotine you would normally get from smoking cigarettes. A typical prescription will give you eight weeks of nicotine replacement before you stop. According to Quitline, these replacements can double your chances of quitting by reducing your cigarette cravings. These kinds of nicotine replacements can be prescribed and cost you $5 for a four-week supply. Research has shown that it may be best to completely stop nicotine replacement therapy after your prescription rather than weaning yourself off.
If you are considering using patches, gum, or lozenges, you should check with your quit coach or your doctor before starting. You should seek specialist advice if you are diabetic, are taking medication for a mental health condition, if you weigh less than 45 kg, or if you have had a heart attack, stroke, or angina in the last two weeks. For more information on nicotine products, check Quitline or the Ministry of Health.
Some medications can be prescribed to help you quit smoking. These work in different ways to reduce withdrawal symptom and block the effects of nicotine in your brain. These must be prescribed by your doctor, who can explain the benefits and risks of using them to quit smoking. Medicines available in New Zealand include nortriptyline (Norpress), bupropion (Zyban), and varenicline (Champix).
Vaping and e-cigarettes
While there is not much research available on the success of vaping and e-cigarettes as a method to quit smoking, it has helped many people quit smoking. Vaping works by delivering nicotine in a less harmful way than cigarette-smoking because there is no burning. Vaping costs about 10% of what smoking cigarettes cost, so it is also cheaper.
Vaping may be a useful technique for you if you find stopping the routine of smoking hard. Vaping allows you to keep the routine of cigarette breaks and social smoking with a less harmful nicotine delivery method. You can choose how much nicotine you get from vaping and lower your intake to work towards quitting. The aim of vaping should be to stop smoking completely.
Vaping is only useful for those who are quitting smoking. It is still harmful, but it is much less harmful than smoking. You can find more information on vaping to quit smoking here.
Quit coaches and Stop Smoking Services
Stop Smoking Services and quit coaches may be free to access in your area. These services are designed to support you through the quitting process and to provide you with resources and access to nicotine replacement therapy. You can find your local Stop Smoking Service at Smokefree, or check Quitline for support.
Smoking controls in New Zealand
In New Zealand we have laws about how cigarettes can be sold and where they can be smoked. The aim of these controls is to reduce the prevalence of daily smoking and promote a smokefree Aotearoa.
Cigarette packaging in New Zealand must follow specific guidelines on standardised packaging. This includes incorporating graphic images and warning messages on at least 75% of the front of packs. Cigarettes are not allowed to be advertised, marketed, promoted, or sponsored. They also must be sold in packs of 20-25 sticks, or in loose pouches of 30 or 50 grams. Cigarettes are not allowed to be sold individually.
The promotion of smokefree environments, including workplaces, licensed premises, schools, and early childhood centres aims to create safe environments for people who wish to avoid harmful second-hand smoke.
The Smokefree 2025 campaign has a long-term goal of reducing the prevalence of smoking in New Zealand and bring tobacco availability down to a minimum. The goal is to have less than 5% of the population as smokers, and to halve the rates of Māori and Pacific smokers in comparison to the level in 2011. Campaigns to help people quit smoking, such as Smokefree and Quitline have been promoted to encourage people to quit smoking.
Websites of interest