1 Jan 2023

No vaping questions in 'low change' 2023 census

3:56 pm on 1 January 2023
Closeup detail of Female with an Electronic Cigarette, Horizontal shot

(file picture) Photo: 123RF

Health advocates are disappointed questions about vaping behaviour will not be included in the 2023 census.

The agency responsible for the census, Stats NZ, said on its website that vaping and e-cigarette use was a "major theme" of submissions about census content in 2020.

Since the last census year in 2018, there was a 151 percent rise in daily vape users, according to a smaller health survey.

But Stats NZ deputy government statistician Simon Mason said the agency was putting its money and effort into ensuring more people answered the census after a poor turnout in 2018, rather than changing questions.

There was low appetite for change this time given the "monumental amount" of consultation that went into question changes for the 2018 census, Mason said.

"Typically every second census is a high change census, and 2023 is one of the low change censuses."

They carefully considered whether census was the right way to capture vaping data, given the government's annual New Zealand Health Survey already did so, Mason said.

"Whilst that's a sample survey, that gives the Ministry of Health better insights into how they can achieve better outcomes for vaping, rather than census as one of those levers."

But Asthma and Respiratory Foundation chief executive Letitia Harding said that was not enough.

The health survey usually captured data from about 13,000 adults and 4000 children - but the most recent sample size was about a third of that due to Covid-19 impacts.

The census is answered by almost the entire population, which Harding said would give a better idea of the vaping landscape in Aotearoa.

"A general census can sort of get rid of some bias as well," she said.

"A health survey is particularly focused around health, whereas having a snapshot from everyday people from all different walks of life might give us a better insight into vaping.

"If we could start capturing data early and including it in the census, then we have that sort of a benchmark of not only how often it's being used out there but being able to relate that to, you know, has there been an increase with associated negative effects from vaping down the line."

The census website said the survey "informs how billions of dollars are spent across the country and in our communities to make a difference to everyone's future."

Harding said leaving vaping out of the census could mean it did not get the required focus and funding from the government.

"The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation has been asking government for assistance around helping with education in the vaping space for years, and of course we get no funding from government.

"We'll just keep making sure that we try and help turn these regulations around, and cap nicotine levels and cap the amount of retailers who can sell it, and stop our rangatahi from actually becoming dependent on vapes.

"In, hopefully, five years' time, we're not going to see that's the case and we don't see lung damage coming through in the long term from these products."

  • Smoking and vaping drive rise in school stand-downs
  • Smokefree amendment bill passes third reading in Parliament
  • Survey shows milestone drop in smoking among Pasifika youth
  • Warning issued after young people seen using DIY vape charging method
  • Schools install high-tech vape detectors as teen vaping rises