Efforts to make New Zealand smoke free by 2025


American historian Robert Proctor once called cigarettes “the deadliest fraud in the history of human civilisation”. Now the New Zealand government wants to ban them, as part of its Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan, setting a goal so that by 2025 fewer than 5% of New Zealanders will be smokers.

It is a decade since New Zealand adopted the goal to reduce smoking prevalence and tobacco availability to minimal levels. In 2010 the Māori Affairs Select Committee began an inquiry into the tobacco industry and the effects of tobacco use on Māori, New Zealand’s indigenous people. The Inquiry looked at how the tobacco industry had encouraged Māori to smoke and the impact of smoking on Māori health.

It found:

  • while overall smoking rates were reducing, the rates among Māori and Pacific peoples were increasing.
    in particular, Māori women have among the highest lung cancer rates in the world.
  • tobacco-related illnesses like emphysema, cancer and heart disease have terrible effects not just on an individual, but the whole whānau.
  • smoking has a devastating effect on young and unborn children.
  • the cultural cost of tobacco to Māori includes the premature loss of kuia and kaumātua, taking away the opportunity for cultural traditions, knowledge and histories to be passed on to younger generations.

For these reasons, and many more, the Inquiry outlined measures “to remove tobacco from our country’s future in order to preserve Māori culture for younger generations.” It was because of this inquiry the Smokefree Aotearoa New Zealand 2025 goal was set.

smoking chart
(Percentage of smokers globally that knew their smoking was harmful to
their health as of 2019, by country. Source: Statista)

The College of Public Health Medicine welcomed the announcement by the government of the development of a Smokefree 2025 Action Plan to speed the country towards achievement of its Smokefree 2025 goal.

“Quitting smoking is not easy, but research has shown that population-level control initiatives, such as reducing access to tobacco products, can help people to quit and prevent them from relapsing”, said College President Dr Jim Miller.

The government’s proposals got a mixed reaction from smokers, reported. Some said the target of making New Zealand essentially a smokefree nation by 2025 is impossible, with many reporting they do not intend to quit. Some said they would quit, while others believed it would cement a black market.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. Smoking accounts for one in four cancer deaths in New Zealand, and around half a million New Zealanders smoke daily.

With reporting by