Article Text

How do New Zealand youth perceive the smoke-free generation policy? A qualitative analysis
  1. Janet Hoek1,
  2. Ell Lee2,
  3. Lani Teddy1,
  4. Elizabeth Fenton3,
  5. Jude Ball1,
  6. Richard Edwards1
  1. 1 Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
  2. 2 University of Otago Medical School, Dunedin, New Zealand
  3. 3 Bioethics Centre, University of Otago Bioethics Centre, Dunedin, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Professor Janet Hoek, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand; janet.hoek{at}


Introduction Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) plans to introduce a smoke-free generation (SFG) policy, alongside denicotinisation and reducing the availability of tobacco products. The SFG has a clear rationale, yet we know little about how young people, those the policy targets, perceive it. To inform policy design, communication and implementation, we explored how NZ youth perceived the SFG.

Methods We undertook in-depth interviews with a sample of 20 youth aged 17 or 18 and explored their knowledge of the SFG, and how they perceived its individual and societal implications. We interpreted the data using a reflexive thematic analysis approach.

Results We identified two overarching themes. The first theme, ‘societal good and protection from harm’, reflected benefits participants associated with the SFG, which outweighed perceptions of lost freedoms. The second theme, ‘privileging personal choice’, corresponded to two small groups within the sample. The first preferred measures they considered less restrictive, such as increasing the purchase age, and some came to support the SFG as they rationalised their views. The second subgroup expressed more entrenched opposition and felt the SFG deprived them of a choice.

Conclusions Young people’s deep reflection on the SFG led most to view it as liberating rather than restrictive. Communications that avoid prompting heuristic-based responses could encourage youth to reflect on the policy and elicit strong support from the group the SFG aims to benefit.

  • public policy
  • denormalization
  • human rights
  • priority/special populations
  • tobacco industry

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Not applicable.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Not applicable.

View Full Text

Supplementary materials


  • X @JudeBall7

  • Contributors JH conceptualised the study, developed the study protocol, including the sampling strategy and interview guide, and obtained ethics approval. JH is guarantor of the article. EL worked as a summer scholarship student under JH’s supervision. EL and JH conducted the interviews, undertook the initial data analyses and prepared a preliminary report outlining the study findings. JH developed and wrote the manuscript and managed the revisions; EL and EF commented on early manuscript drafts; LT reviewed transcripts from some Māori participants and advised on the interpretation of these. JB and RE commented on advanced drafts. Authors are listed in descending order of contribution; all authors approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding EL received a student scholarship funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand via the Whakahā o te Pā Harakeke programme (contract 19/641). The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.