More action needed to make New Zealand smokefree by 2025

In 2011, the New Zealand Government decided to set a goal to have New Zealand smokefree by 2025, which is categorised as having fewer than 5 percent of New Zealanders smoking by 2025. Currently that number stands at 15 percent.

Tobacco kills approximately five thousand New Zealanders every year and many smokers will have taken up the habit without having understood the diseases that smoking causes or the risks involved with doing so. 

The University of Otago have a research group named ASPIRE 2025, which develops evidence to support the government’s goal. Critic spoke with Professor Janet Hoek, who leads the tobacco-free communications theme within the research group. 

She wishes to see increased tobacco excise taxes, plain packaging of cigarettes, licensing for sellers of tobacco, and finally better cessation support. Hoek spoke of how “smoking prevalence is much higher among people living in the most deprived circumstances” and that developing cessation support that reduces these inequalities is pivotal. 

One method of curtailing numbers of smokers is to dissuade them by using different coloured cigarettes as opposed to the traditional white stick with an orange tip. Hoek’s work shows that this would augment the effect of plain packaging and be “particularly effective in discouraging young adults from smoking socially.” 

With tobacco taxes having increased by 10 percent at the start of this year, many academics and anti-smoking organisations are calling for a 50 percent price increase this year. Michelle Grigg, on behalf of the Hawke’s Bay Smokefree Coalition, noted in a submission to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee that: “10 percent annual tax increase is not sufficient to reach our national Smokefree 2025 goal.” She goes on to say that “To achieve maximum benefit, evidence indicates large and sustained tax increases are required - 20 percent per annum for a period of at least four years.”

However, Hoek spoke of how it is “important to note that we need a comprehensive approach to reducing smoking so, as well and changing the appearance of cigarette sticks, we also need to introduce plain packaging, redesign the on-pack warning labels, remove variant information and transform on-pack cessation information so it’s more salient and visually accessible.”

This article first appeared in Issue 10, 2016.
Posted 10:44am Sunday 8th May 2016 by Joe Higham.