Can You Smoke in New Zealand?

If you are a smoker and moving to or visiting New Zealand, you might ask yourself where you will be allowed to smoke in New Zealand, how much it costs, what relevant laws are, and which penalties are imposed.

You can smoke in outdoor spaces away from other people. But, there are laws against smoking in most indoor places and near young children – also penalties if you do so. Recently, strict regulations have been introduced to reduce the number of smokers, and anyone visiting should be well aware of these.

There are some interesting stats about reducing the number of smokers in New Zealand, massive support for anti-smoking laws, and cannabis smoking – read on to find more.

Smoking and vaping in New Zealand

Smoking stats

Kiwis are rejoicing that with their smoke-free campaign efforts, the smoking rates are declining in the country. Based on the Ministry of Health stats, in 2022, 8% of the Kiwi population comprises daily smokers, while the percentage of current smokers stands at 9.2%.

The stats look appealing when we see them this way: 65% of the population of New Zealand never smoked regularly, and more than 1,114,000 people used to smoke but have given up now.

Daily smoking rates in New Zealand 2021 & 2022:

Adult smokers (15+)19.9% (down from 39% in 2006/07 and 28.6% in 2019/20)- Smoking rates among Māori women were 18.2%, and among Māori men were 21.8%
Young adults 18-248.2% (down from 25% in 2006/07 and 13.1% in 2019/20)
Māori adults7.2% (14.7% in 2011/12 and 10.1% in 2019/20)- Smoking rates among European/Other women were 6.2%, and among European/Other men were 8.3%
Pacific peoples18.2% (25% in 2006/07 and 20.2% in 2017/18)- Smoking rates among Pacific women were 19.2% and among Pacific men were 16.9%
European and other2.6% (7.9% in 2011/12 and 7.4% in 2019/20)- Smoking rates among Asian women were 1.5%, and among Asian men were 3.7%
Asian adults2.6% (7.9% in 2011/12 and 7.4% in 2019/20)- Smoking rates among Asian women were 1.5% and among Asian men were 3.7%

Anti-smoking laws

New Zealand has introduced several laws and regulations prohibiting or restricting smoking; here are the major ones.

The Smokefree Environments (Prohibiting Smoking in Motor Vehicles Carrying Children) Amendment Act

This Act was enforced in 2021 that no one is allowed to smoke in a vehicle (whether moving or stationary) when any child (under the age of 18 years) is present in the car. This Act was passed to limit the exposure to secondhand smoke for young children.

Any person who violates this Act will be liable for a NZ$50 fine, or the court can decide to impose up to NZ$100 as a penalty.

Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020

Also known as The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990, this Act commenced in 2020 and prohibits the following:

  • No smoking or vaping in indoor environments like offices, cafes, pubs, etc
  • Any promotion of tobacco or vaping products
  • Selling tobacco or vapes to young people under 18
  • Selling single cigarettes or less than 20 cigarettes
  • Smoking or vaping near young children, like schools, early childhood centers, etc

Government plans

All the legislations and acts are working together towards Smokefree Aotearoa 2025. This plan, launched in 2022, has six focus areas to achieve the best possible outcomes for future generations.

The Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan

The goal of the New Zealand government is to ensure that by 2025, smokers will be amongst only 5% of the country’s population.

The six key areas that this plan is working on are:

  1. Include Maori leadership and involvement in decision-making at all levels
  2. Raise awareness about health promotion and community mobilization
  3. Increase stop-smoking services that are evidence-based
  4. Reduce the appeal of smoking tobacco goods
  5. Reduce the availability of smoking tobacco products
  6. Ensure retailers, manufacturers, and importers oblige with the legal requirements

The outcomes of this plan will benefit Kiwis as a smoke-free generation will be produced with more people quitting smoking and eliminating the inequities between the rates of smoking and related illnesses.

Buying cigarettes in New Zealand

Most people buy cigarettes from dairies and local stores. If you look young, the seller might ask you for an ID (usually a NZ driving license or passport) to prove that you are over 18 years of age.

Anyone can buy if they have an identification to prove you are not a minor. Visitors and foreigners can use their passports as IDs.

In 2022, New Zealand passed the world’s first-ever tobacco law to ban smoking for the next generation. The law states that tobacco can’t be sold to anyone born on or after the first of January 2009.

Thus, the minimum age for purchasing cigarettes keeps on rising. This means that, supposedly, someone trying to buy cigarettes 50 years later would need to be at least 63 years of age.


Smoking is expensive in New Zealand. Someone smoking a packet of cigarettes a day is spending roughly NZ$266 weekly, which is a significant addition to other weekly expenses. This adds up to become NZ$13,800 per year.

Besides, no one in New Zealand is allowed to sell single cigarettes to discourage smoking by increasing the cost barrier, so the only way to purchase cigarettes is to buy a whole packet.

If you want to estimate how much you will be spending on smoking based on your smoking habits, this smoking calculator can also help you in estimating that. For those who vape, the cost calculator is a good online tool for assessing how much you will spend weekly.

It’s also noteworthy that if you are bringing cigarettes from overseas, New Zealand airports have restrictions in place. Generally, you will need a permit to import tobacco products.

Don’t forget that smoking is restricted in travel terminals and passenger lounges of New Zealand airports.

Can you smoke in public in New Zealand?

As a general rule of thumb, outdoor spaces away from other people are safer for smoking without violating any laws and risking penalties. This map is a handy tool to check which places have a smoking ban from your local council.

According to the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020, no one is allowed to smoke or vape in indoor environments like:

  • offices
  • factories
  • break rooms
  • cafes
  • inside ships
  • inside trains
  • pubs
  • prisons
  • warehouses, etc.

You may also want to check with your employer if there is a policy of having smoke-free work vehicles.

Government offices also ban smoking in their buildings, hospitals, enclosed public spaces, sheltered areas, and community recreational facilities around the country.

If you are in a public space surrounded by other people, it is better to move away so that you don’t expose them to secondhand smoke – or at least look around to check for a No Smoking sign first.

You can smoke outdoors, though, but before you do so, ensure that there is not a no-smoking sign nearby. Public places near children’s playgrounds, sports grounds, and other areas where kids are present (like educational institutes, daycares, etc.) also have a smoking ban throughout New Zealand.

Can you smoke cannabis in New Zealand?

Cannabis smoking is illegal. Anyone possessing and/or cannabis can be fined up to NZ$500. If you face charges of supplying or manufacturing cannabis, then you may face up to 14 years in prison. Sowing or planting can get you 7 years in jail or 2 immediate years in prison with a NZ$2,000 fine.

While we tell you that it’s illegal, it’s also interesting to know that cannabis is so widely consumed within New Zealand that it’s reported as the 4th most frequently consumed substance in the country (after the first three legal items being caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco).

A household survey by the United Nations showed that 13.4% of Kiwis (within the 15-64 age bracket) had used cannabis, ranking New Zealand 9th highest in the world.  

A referendum in 2020 asked Kiwi people if they wanted to allow the use of cannabis or marijuana for medicinal purposes – however, that referendum did not pass. Consequently, cannabis is not legal in any shape or form in New Zealand.

Youngsters are widely using cannabis, which can lead them to unpleasant dealings with the Police Youth Aid. If it’s the first offense (and the amount they possess is less than what constitutes supply), they get a warning. If it happens more than once, they may get in serious trouble.

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