Second-hand smoke exposure

This page presents data and statistics on exposure to second-hand smoke in New Zealand. You can download factsheets from the Downloads box.

Second-hand smoke is a major cause of indoor air pollution in New Zealand. Exposure to second-hand smoke causes illness and premature death in both children and adults [1,2]. 

Around 29,000 children exposed to second-hand smoke

In 2015/16, around 29,000 (3.2%) children aged 0–14 years were exposed to second-hand smoke in their home [3]. A similar prevalence (3.2%) was reported among non-smoking adults aged 15+ years who were exposed to second-hand smoke. The estimated number of non-smoking adults exposed to second-hand smoke was not available in the Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Use module in the 2015/16 New Zealand Health Survey.

Large drop in exposure to second-hand smoke

Fewer children were exposed to second-hand smoke in their home in 2015/16 (3.2%) than in 2006/07 (9.6%).

A similar drop was seen for non-smoking adults, from 7.7% in 2006/07 to 3.2% in 2015/16.  

Young adults and children are more likely to be exposed

Young adults aged 15–19 years (7.8%) and 20–24 years (7.6%) had the highest rates of second-hand smoke exposure in their home compared with older non-smokers (25–75+ years olds).

Māori children and Pacific non-smoking adults are more affected

Second-hand smoke exposure in the home was highest in Māori children (6.1%) and Pacific non-smoking adults (8.7%). 

Adjusting for age and sex differences, Māori children were 2.80 times as likely as non-Māori children to be exposed to second-hand smoke in their home.

For non-smoking adults, Pacific people were 2.43 times as likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke in their home than non-Pacific.

Rates higher in more deprived areas

Children (7.5%) and non-smoking adults (6.0%) living in the most deprived areas were more likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke in the home than those living in the least deprived areas (NZDep2013 quintile 1) in 2015/16.

Adjusting for age, sex, and ethnic differences, children living in the most deprived neighbourhoods (NZDep2013 quintile 5) were 18.05 times as likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke in their home as those in the least deprived neighbourhoods.

For non-smoking adults, those that lived in the most deprived areas were 3.65 times as likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke in their home than those in the least deprived areas.

See the factsheets for more details (in the downloads box above).

Fewer mothers are smoking at two weeks after birth

In 2018, 9.4% of mothers who gave birth were smoking at two weeks after birth. The percentage of mothers smoking at two weeks postnatal had decreased from 13.7% in 2009 to 9.4% in 2018.

Maternal smoking was higher among Māori mothers (25.0%) compared with European/Other mothers (6.0%), Pacific mothers (5.5%) and Asian mothers (0.4%). Between 2009 and 2018, maternal smoking rates at two weeks postnatal has declined for Māori mothers, while Pacific, European/Other and Asian mothers' smoking rates remained relatively consistent.

Since 2009, Tairāwhiti District Health Board (DHB) has consistently had the highest maternal smoking rates. In contrast, Auckland DHB has had the lowest.

Babies of mothers who smoke are at increased risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) in their first year of life [4].   

See the factsheet for more details (in the downloads box above).

Health effects from second-hand smoke

Second-hand smoke can cause poor health, particularly in young children. 

In infants and children, second-hand smoke increases the risk of [1,2]:

In non-smoking adults, second-hand smoke increases the risk of:

  • ischaemic heart disease
  • stroke
  • lung cancer.

Burden of disease from second-hand smoke

An estimated 104 people died from second-hand smoke exposure in New Zealand in 2010 [5,6].

Read more about the health burden due to second-hand smoke exposure

Information about this data 

Exposure to second-hand smoke

Source: Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Use 2015/162015/16 New Zealand Health Survey, Ministry of Health [3].

Definition: Exposure to second-hand smoke was asked about in the adult (15+ years) and child (0–14 years) questionnaires of the 2006/07, 2012/13, and 2015/16 New Zealand Health Surveys.  The question asked in these surveys was:

  • Does anyone smoke inside your house? Yes / No / Don’t know / Refused.

For children aged 0–14 years, a primary caregiver answered the child questionnaire as a proxy for the child.  The above questions were reworded to refer to the child.  For more information on the New Zealand Health Survey, visit the New Zealand Health Survey website.

Maternal smoking at two weeks postnatal

Source: New Zealand Maternity Clinical Indicators 2020, Ministry of Health [7].

Definition: Mothers who reported that they smoked at two weeks after birth, among all mothers who reported a smoking status at two weeks after birth.  Year refers to the year of delivery.  

References

1. US Department of Health and Human Services. 2014. The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Surgeon General. 2006. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services.

2. US Surgeon General. 2006. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services.

3. Ministry of Health. 2020. Tobacco and electronic cigarette use 2015/16: New Zealand Health Survey.Wellington: Ministry of Health.

4. Anderson HR, Cook D. 1997. Passive smoking and sudden infant death syndrome: review of the epidemiological evidence. Thorax, 52, 1003-1009.

5. Mason KM, Borman B. 2016. The burden of disease from second-hand smoke exposure in New Zealand. New Zealand Medical Journal, 129(1432): 16–25.

6.  Mason KM. 2016. The Burden of Disease from Second-hand Smoke in New Zealand. Wellington: Environmental Health Indicators Programme, Massey University. 

7. Ministry of Health. 2020. New Zealand Maternity Clinical Indicators 2018. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

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