Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall received a giant open letter of support from more than 110 health and community organisations and 650 individuals at parliament today in support for her Smokefree 2025 Action Plan.
Health Coalition Aotearoa created the 1.2 metre letter to symbolise the groundswell of support from academic experts, health professionals, researchers, NGOs, iwi-led organisations and all DHBs for implementing the evidence-based Action Plan that, if accepted in full, will rid New Zealand of tobacco harm.
“This plan moves away from the business-as-usual approach that smoking is a smoker’s problem,” HCA Smokefree Expert Advisory Group spokesman and Roopuu member Andrew Waa said.
“That approach means that thousands continue to die every year from cancer, lung and heart diseases. Māori, Pacific and low-income communities bear a disproportionate burden.
“Each one of these deaths is preventable.”
This sentiment was echoed by Manager of the Takiri Mai te Ata Regional Stop Smoking Service Catherine Manning.
“The Government commitments in the Smokefree Action Plan include recognising strong Māori leadership, and urgent action to support Māori needs. Māori have been at the forefront of Smokefree 2025 goal, and the front lines of tobacco control in our own communities.
“We’re asking the Government to urgently roll out the full Action Plan, including strengthening Māori governance of tobacco control.
“This is the only way we will all reach Smokefree Aotearoa 2025, together.”
The plan includes measures to make smoking products less available, less affordable and less addictive.
“Game-changing measures are the removal of nicotine from cigarettes, and reduced retail access,” Waa said.
“We have an opportunity to save thousands of lives every year and improve health equity for Māori and Pacific communities. We have united support, and the world is watching what our Government does next.
The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists is an HCA member organisation and signatory to the letter.
Executive Director Sarah Dalton says clinicians need the Government to step up and fully implement the 2025 Action Plan to deal to the harm caused by tobacco and help people before they end up in hospitals.
“Reducing smoking harm is vital, not only because of its devastating impact on people’s health. Our hospital systems are under strain as we are already living with resource constraints and the added challenges of Covid.
“Smoking perpetuates health inequalities. Working together to address the social and commercial determinants of health, like reducing the harm of tobacco, is how we get ahead of the curve and create a healthier Aotearoa” she said.