The Dominion Post, 2 August 2017
Smokers might need to travel to the next town to buy a pack of
ciggies by 2022, if the Government accepts drastic recommendations
made by a group of health experts.
The group, backed by Dame Tariana Turia, also proposes a cut-off
birthdate for purchasing tobacco, which would mean future
generations would never be permitted to buy cigarettes.
The drastic measures will be presented to MPs on Wednesday
morning, along with a warning that the Government's
Smokefree 2025 goal is not going to happen at current
cessation rates, and that Maori won't get there until at least
One of the five key strategies is to cap the number of
tobacco retailers at 300. New Zealand has more than 550 officially
recognised towns and cities, so the recommendation would mean many
population centres would miss out.
Project leader Richard Edwards, a University of Otago
professor, said: "At the moment there are about 6500 retailers.
We're suggesting that's not good, and want to stop
Maximum of 300 retailers permitted to sell tobacco products by
Such as menthol and sugar, and reduce nicotine content
Increase buying age
Introduce a cut-off birth date for purchase, to create future
'tobacco-free' generations, starting in December 2020
Increase tobacco tax by 20 per cent annually for three years
Minimum retail price
For all tobacco products from December 2020.
Edwards is among a group of 30 health experts who will launch
the five-year strategy and accompanying progress report,
titled Achieving Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025, at
a Parliament breakfast.
Turia, the Maori Party co-founder who pushed for the policy of
raising cigarette taxes by 10 per cent a year, said: "The plan
includes a focus on interventions in areas that have not been
addressed before - such as reducing the retail availability of
tobacco, and reducing its appeal and addictiveness."
Another strategy would see the current purchasing age of 18
increased gradually every year, starting from
"That means people born after a certain date won't be able to
purchase cigarettes, and they'll never be able to purchase
cigarettes," Edwards said.
Other key strategies included removing additives such as menthol
that make cigarettes more palatable, increasing tax on cigarettes
by 20 per cent annually for three years, and imposing a minimum
Additional suggestions include ending the
duty-free allowance; adding a one-off 15 per cent tax on
roll-your-own cigarettes on top of the proposed total tax increase;
and increasing campaigns targeted at Maori, Pacific and low-income
The Government's Smokefree 2025 goal has existed since
2011, but there has never been a strategy, "so this report is
saying here's a strategy for you", Edwards said.
When questioned on the lack of a strategy, Associate Health
Minister Nicky Wagner said: "We're starting to see the
effectiveness of blanket policies diminish, which is why the
Government has realigned stop-smoking services to target the most
difficult to reach cohorts, particularly Maori and pregnant
Adult smoking rates had dropped from 18 per cent in 2007 to 14
per cent in 2016, and annual daily smoking rates for year 10
students had dropped from 8.2 per cent in 2006 to 2.5 per cent
in 2015, she said.
However, Edwards said Maori rates sat at about 35 per cent for
men, and 40 per cent for women. "Smokefree 2025 is
about achieving Smokefree 2025 for all population
groups. This really was a Maori vision and idea."
New Zealand Health Survey data reveals an average of 13 people
die from smoking-caused disease every day. That amounted
to 5000 people a year, or one in six of all deaths, Edwards
The Smokefree goal, of achieving less than 5 per cent
smoking prevalence, emerged from calls by Maori leaders and the
Maori affairs select committee, which conducted an inquiry in
2010 into the impacts of the tobacco industry.
The inquiry's proposals have been only partly addressed in the
seven years since, the Edwards group's progress
Tax and GST on tobacco generated about $1.3 billion in
2008-09, and Edwards conceded that far outweighed the direct
health costs of about $400m for treating smoking-related
"Is it a good trade-off? Do we want to trade off money for the
Government for killing 5000 people a year? For me, as a
doctor, that's an easy trade-off."
He argued that factoring in lost productivity, lost
earnings and lost years of life put the real cost of smoking at
more than $5b each year.