Repeal of smoke-free laws – a massive set back for health

24 Nov, 2023 | Media Release

Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) is extremely disappointed the new coalition Government plans to repeal world-leading Smoke-free laws, including de-nicotisation of cigarettes, a reduction in retailers and banning cigarettes for the next generation.  

HCA calls for the full implementation of the Smoke-free laws, with Māori leadership, as one of its top recommendations for action within the first 100 days, in a Briefing to the Incoming Parliament.

The Coalition Government’s Smoke-free Amendment repeal will cost thousands of lives and have the greatest effect on Māori – who have the highest rates of smoking (19 per cent), HCA co-chair Professor Lisa Te Morenga said.

“It’s a further insult to our tangata whenua by the newly formed coalition Government on top of the loss of Te Aka Whai Ora – the Māori Health Authority.”

The move was astounding, given incoming Minister of Health Dr Shane Reti’s previous stated support for denicotisation, HCA co-chair Professor Boyd Swinburn said.

“This is major loss for public health, and a huge win for the tobacco industry – whose profits will be boosted at the expense of Kiwi lives.”

Swinburn said there was huge support for the world-leading, smoke-free amendments from the health sector – and the New Zealand public.

Recent modelling showed the Smokefree regulations would save $1.3 billion in health system costs over the next 20 years, if fully implemented – and reduce all-cause mortality rates by 22 per cent for women, and nine per cent for men. 

The National Party campaigned on “better health outcomes” and said it would “relentlessly focus on results” – but this goal would be completely undermined by the repeals, Swinburn said.  

Tobacco – along with alcohol and unhealthy food cause nearly one-third of preventable health loss in New Zealand.

Coalition agreements to further crack down on youth vaping is welcomed and HCA will be monitoring progress on proposed new regulations.

“Turning the tide on harmful products that are entrenched in society cannot be done by individuals, or even communities. It takes good – and brave – population-level policies,” Te Morenga said.

Prevention makes health and financial sense, HCA co-chair Professor Boyd Swinburn said.

Type 2 diabetes, a preventable diet-related disease, costs at least $1 billion every year in direct health services. Without meaningful change to address the causes of this epidemic, the annual cost will reach $3.5 billion by 2040.

HCA’s briefing to the new Government provides evidence-based prevention measures for its first 100 and 1000 days and includes:

First 100 days:

  • Initiate consultation with Māori and Iwi providers about how to ensure better outcomes for Māori health, following the disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora
  • Urgently strengthen youth vaping regulations
  • With Māori leadership, implement the tobacco control measures for Smokefree 2025 (denicotinisation, retailer numbers reduction and smokefree generation)
  • Increase the alcohol levy to replace alcohol sponsorship of sports and events for a period of five years
  • Commit to develop a national food and nutrition strategy within the term of Government
  • Commit to baseline funding of Ka Ora, Ka Ako – the free healthy school lunches programme
  • Instruct the Ministry of Health to develop and design a sugary drinks industry levy

First 1000 days:

  • Achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal for all population groups.
  • Implement effective regulations to reduce youth vaping
  • Achieve a reduction in alcohol harm with new, Te Tiriti-centred alcohol laws
  • Expand Ka Ora, Ka Ako to 50 per cent of all schools
  • Achieve a reduction in consumption of sugary drinks and reformulation of beverages with a 20 per cent sugary drinks levy
  • Progressively increase the annual investment in prevention (public health) to 5 per cent of the health budget within the term of Government

ENDS

Smokefree repeal must get Parliamentary scrutiny

Today, Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA), the Council of Medical Colleges in New Zealand (CMC), and Te Ohu Rata O Aotearoa – Māori Medical Practitioners Association are calling on the Government not to repeal the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked...

Govt allies play down smoking harm, back repeal

The Government is preparing to repeal new Smokefree measures that would rapidly save thousands of lives, a move that has widely been condemned by national and international health experts. Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) is therefore disappointed to see the Action on...

Scrapping Te Aka Whai Ora – major threat to Māori health

The disestablishment of Te Aka Whai Ora – the Māori Health Authority - as proposed by the National, ACT and NZ First parties, poses a grave threat to the health and wellbeing of tangata whenua. Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) calls on all parties to retain Te Aka Whai...

Free under-30s dental care fills gap but more needed

Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) welcomes Labour’s proposed policy to reduce the burden of dental disease in Aotearoa - but says more preventative action is needed to address the causes of tooth decay. Provision of free dental care for the under-30s, will help correct...

Alcohol bill step in right direction to reduce harm

Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) commends the Government's passing of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Community Participation) Amendment Bill yesterday. While there is still much more to be done to reduce alcohol harm in this country, this is a step in the right...

Stronger youth vaping measures welcomed

Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) welcomes Labour’s stronger proposed measures to address the serious problem of vaping among our tamariki and rangatahi. Labour’s policy announced today included capping all vape stores to 600 nation-wide, a requirement for all retailers...

‘We have failed our mokopuna’

Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) stands in solidarity with the parents’ movement Vape-Free Kids and their petitions calling on the Government to protect children from vaping addiction. Vape-Free Kids NZ are handing over their petitions to Dr Tracey McLellan, Chair of...