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  1. What it is

    Tobacco refers to the dried leaves of the tobacco plant, which are processed into cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff or snus. Tobacco contains nicotine which is very addictive, and more than 4000 chemical compounds, including cyanide, acetone, DDT, carbon monoxide and ammonia.

  2. Health effects

    Short-term effects

    Smoking tobacco has many negative short-term and long-term consequences. The immediate effects of tobacco include:

  3. Dependence, addiction and overdose risk

    Dependence and addiction

    Nicotine is highly addictive. When tobacco is consumed, nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream and, over time, will create tolerance and dependence. Despite the well-documented harmful effects to the body, many people find it hard to stop smoking.

  4. Law and penalities

    Tobacco control in New Zealand is legislated under the provisions of the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 and subsequent amendments. The Act governs where people cannot smoke and regulates the sale, marketing and advertising of tobacco products.

  5. Drug trends

    Tobacco is the second largest cause of preventable death in New Zealand and is the second-most common recreational drug used, after alcohol.

    People who die from smoking tobacco lose, on average, 14 years of life compared to non-smokers. Tobacco is the only known consumer product that kills half of its users when used as the manufacturer directs. Smoking accounts for 9% of all illness, disability and premature mortality in New Zealand in 2013 (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2015).

    The 2014/15 New Zealand Health Survey published in 2015 found:

  6. Reducing the harm

    The Drug Foundation’s message is clear: no drug use is the safest drug use. However, we know there will be occasions when people ignore warnings and use drugs in a dangerous manner. To help keep communities safe we therefore provide information about proven methods of drug harm reduction.

  7. How to get help

    The Quitline is a national telephone helpline that provides advice to callers wanting to quit smoking. In addition to support and advice from Quitline advisors, subsidised nicotine patches and gum are available for up to eight weeks. Call the Quit Group 0800 778 778 or visit

  8. Tobacco and pregnancy

    Smoking can significantly harm an unborn child. Smokers’ babies are more likely to be born underweight, premature or stillborn.

  9. Second-hand smoke

    Second-hand smoke refers to smoke that is breathed out by smokers (mainstream smoke) and the smoke coming from a lit cigarette (sidestream smoke). Two-thirds of the smoke from a cigarette is not inhaled by the person smoking the cigarette.

  10. Tobacco: a nasty cocktail of chemicals

    There are over 4000 chemicals contained in tobacco smoke, including 40 known cancer-causing substances. Some chemicals found in tobacco include: