Professor Janet Hoek, Professor Karine Gallopel-Morvan, Professor Richard Edwards, Professor Tony Blakely
New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 goal is now less than ten years away but we are unlikely to achieve this world-leading goal unless the Government introduces innovative new policies that reduce smoking prevalence (1). Existing measures have tackled different facets of tobacco marketing, with plain packaging reducing a potent form of tobacco marketing and excise tax increases making smoking less affordable. However, tobacco products themselves have received less attention. In this blog we outline findings from recent studies examining roll-your-own tobacco use and explore potential policy implications.
Roll-your-own tobacco (RYO) has increased in popularity, largely due to its cost advantages, which have persisted despite efforts to reduce differences in the excise tax on RYO tobacco and tailor made (TM) cigarettes (2). Many New Zealand smokers now use loose tobacco to make RYO cigarettes, which are typically around half to two-thirds the size of TM cigarettes (3,4). RYO use is higher among younger demographics, particularly young adults aged 20-24, where more than 60% smoke RYO, either exclusively (42%) or in conjunction with TM cigarettes (20%) (3). Among 25-45 year olds, RYO use (exclusive and with TM cigarettes) is 57%. RYO use is higher among Māori and NZ Europeans than among Pacific peoples (see figure below); people experiencing greater deprivation are also more likely to use RYO tobacco than smokers who experience less deprivation (3). Furthermore, New Zealand RYO smokers are also more likely than TM cigarette smokers to have co-morbidities such as mental health illnesses, illicit drug addictions, and risky drinking behaviours (5).