Interestingly, the Electoral Profiles detail the number of people within each electorate who are regular smokers, who are ex-smokers, and who have never smoked. These stats, when added to the correlation matrix, tell us about the tobacco smoking habits of New Zealanders.
This article will assume that the statistics for tobacco use correlate highly with the statistics for cannabis use. The primary reason for assuming this is the size of the correlation between being a regular tobacco user and voting for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 2014, which was 0.88.
This was the strongest of all the correlations between being a regular smoker and voting for a particular party in 2014. For voting Maori Party the correlation was 0.81, for Internet MANA 0.73, for New Zealand First 0.72 and for Labour 0.53. On the not-currently-smoking side were the Greens at -0.19, Conservative at -0.47, ACT at -0.58, and National at -0.75.
Already from this, some clear trends suggest themselves – in particular, that a Kiwi is more likely to be a regular smoker the harder their life is.
There was a correlation of -0.61 with net personal income and being a regular smoker, which is even stronger than the correlation with net personal income and being Maori (-0.48).
On that point, the correlation between being a regular smoker and being Maori is a whopping 0.92. This is even stronger than the correlation between voting Maori Party and being Maori (0.91), which tells us that the smoking-Maori connection is one of the strongest observations that we can make.
Kiwis of European descent are moderately unlikely to be regular smokers – the correlation between the two is only -0.32 – but the correlation between being of European descent and being an ex-smoker is 0.74. Asians are more likely to never have smoked – the correlation between the two was 0.77.
Although there was no significant correlation between median age and never smoking, the correlation between median age and being a regular smoker was -0.53, and with being an ex-smoker it was 0.53. This tells us that regular smokers tend to be much younger than ex-smokers, which fits the observation that regular smokers are usually in their teens, twenties or thirties.
Returning to the idea that people tend to smoke more the worse they are doing, we can observe that the correlation between being a regular smoker and being on the invalid’s benefit is 0.85, and with being on the unemployment benefit it was a whopping 0.87. This is probably because there is little else to do on a long-term benefit other than to smoke!
Also related to this idea, we can see that people doing well are less likely to smoke. Even merely being a student, which is to say, still young and poor but at least hopeful, is not significantly correlated with being a regular smoker. It is, however, correlated with never smoking, even if it was a very mild 0.25.
Perhaps the final word on this line of thinking comes from contrasting the correlation between having no qualifications and being a regular smoker, which is 0.84, with that of having a Master’s degree and being a regular smoker, which is -0.66.
Predictably, given the stats detailed thus far, the working class professions tend to be the ones that correlate positively with being a regular smoker. Agriculture, fishing and forestry (0.35), Construction (0.37), Electricity, gas, water and waste services (0.42), Transport, postal and warehousing (0.52) and Manufacturing (0.58).
And so, the middle and professional classes are inversely correlated with being a regular smoker. These were Information media and telecommunications (-0.34), Rental, hiring and real estate services (-0.38), Financial and insurance services (-0.48) and Professional, scientific and technical services (-0.56).
Finally, there is no significant correlation between any of being a regular smoker, being an ex-smoker and never having smoked on the one hand, and being either male or female on the other. Despite this, the numbers suggest that more females than males are regular smokers.
This article is an excerpt from Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan, published by VJM Publishing in the winter of 2017.