Smoke Free Action Plan geared to be “end game move” for Tobacco-caused death

The Smokefree Action Plan which proposes sweeping tobacco sale restrictions and the creation of a smokefree-generation could be the “end game move” needed to eliminate tobacco-caused death in New Zealand, the Health Coalition Aotearoa says.

Associate Minister for Health Ayesha Verrall released her Smokefree Action Plan for discussion on Thursday as part of the objective to see New Zealand smoke free by 2025.

Smoking kills 13 people a day in New Zealand yet cigarettes are sold in more than 6000 retail outlets.

The plan proposes all tobacco must be sold at a specific store type, prohibits filters in smoked tobacco products, sets a minimum price for tobacco products and introduces the idea of a smoke free generation where it becomes prohibited to sell tobacco to people born after a set year.

“The recommendations are not only game-changing but, likely, game-ending for tobacco,” Health Coalition Chair Boyd Swinburn said.

“With this action plan in place it is possible for New Zealand to reach its smoke-free 2025 target and eliminate the harm this product, which kills two thirds of its users, creates. “We fully support Verrall’s plan which shows bold leadership.”

Swinburn says the plan should help eliminate inequities around smoking rates, encourage children to remain smoke-free and should help others quit smoking altogether.

“There is clear evidence that restricting retail availability is a central strategy for reducing the damage from all harmful products,” he said.

“Cigarettes are the most harmful and most widely available commercial product so licensing substantially fewer retail outlets is essential.”

“Several options to achieve this are outlined in the Government’s proposals and we need to ensure that there is a just transition for small business owners, like dairies, to exit tobacco retail. Making New Zealand smokefree by 2025 is a goal we all need to work together on.”

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark says presenting the Smokefree Action Plan to cabinet is a pivotal step towards achieving the world-leading objective of having a smoke-free country by 2025.

“We needed a plan to get to Smokefree Aotearoa 2025,” she said. “A multi-pronged approach will be a winwin-win for individuals, whanau, the health service, and our nation.”

The Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 was passed under Clark’s leadership as Minister of Health. Its provisions included banning smoking on public transport, banning sales to under 16-year-olds, requiring disclosure of ingredients, banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship, and establishing the Health Promotion Agency to replace tobacco sponsorship.

In 2011 the government set a target of having a smoke-free New Zealand by 2025. While work towards the 2025 objective continued, a formal plan is yet to be adopted by a government.

“Having a plan puts New Zealand on a better footing to realise the dream of over thirty years ago and complete our journey to becoming a smoke-free nation by 2025,” she said.

“Thirty years ago, one in three adults smoked regularly. Today, smoking rates have plummeted to one in eight which has resulted in thousands of lives being saved.”

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