Smokefree advocates from the Canterbury and West Coast region are urging the Government to push ahead with what they say is a stalled objective of a Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025.
The chairs of Smokefree Canterbury, Smokefree Mid Canterbury, and the West Coast Tobacco Free Coalition have written a letter to Health Minister David Clark after a seminar in Christchurch last week which was attended by University of Otago researchers and smokefree groups.
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"Progress towards the Smokefree Aotearoa goal has stalled in recent years but it's still very achievable," said Professor Richard Edwards from the University of Otago Wellington.
"There is a clear set of actions that need to be put in place to achieve the goal, but the main thing we need is the political courage to tackle one of the biggest killers in New Zealand," he said.
The actions are outlined in the letter to the minister include proceeding with the plans to introduce standardised packaging and enhanced pictorial warnings, making nicotine-containing e-cigarettes more widely available, and implementing a range of other measures to make cigarettes less available, less affordable and less appealing.
"What's needed now, more than anything, is leadership," said Prof Edwards.
"We're encouraged by the minister's previous comments supporting the goal, and look forward to working with him to make it a reality."
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Actions they say are needed include:
- dramatically reducing the number of retail outlets that sell tobacco
- continuing to increase tobacco tax and introducing a minimum retail price for tobacco
- removing additives that make tobacco products more palatable and appealing to young people
- greatly intensifying media campaigns encouraging and supporting smokers to quit and discouraging young people from starting
- extending smokefree environment legislation to include specific outdoor areas and vehicles carrying children
- better targeting of smoking cessation advice and support to reach priority groups, particularly Māori and Pacific smokers.