NZ won't make smokefree by 2025 target - study

NZ won't make smokefree by 2025 target - study

A new study shows New Zealand is way off its target to become smokefree by 2025.

The Government has committed to a goal of reducing smoking to 5 percent of the population or less within the next nine years.

But researchers at the University of Otago, in a series of articles published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, say current efforts aren't enough.

"We want to achieve pretty much nil smoking," says Prof Richard Edwards.

"Or certainly less than 5 percent, in all groups of the population, and our evidence is that for Māori we're not going to do that until 2060, rather than 2025."

For smoker Rachel Beaumont, her story is a familiar one.

"I got addicted at a young age. Plus like both my parents smoke, my whole family smokes," she says.

"I know it's not good for me but it's hard to give up, aye?"

Smoking is the single biggest preventable risk factor for premature death and morbidity in New Zealand - it's worst among Māori and Pacific people.

Efforts are being made to lower rates - taxes on cigarettes are going up, there are health warnings on packs, and the Government's looking to bring in plain packaging. Even smoking in public spaces is under threat as councils investigate new bylaws.

But are all these measures working?

While overall rates are slowly declining, now around 15 percent, more than a third of Māori (35.5 percent) and almost a quarter of Pacific people in New Zealand smoke (22.4 percent).

The rates among women are even higher.

"Being brought up like people around us smoked, so I guess we do it too," says one woman smoker.

She's trying to cut down because at 27, it's already affecting her health.

"I'm down from a pack a day to about four cigarettes a day."

Māori and Pacific people are at a much higher risk of hospitalisation or death from respiratory disease.

Ministry of Health figures show Māori are 3.5 times more likely to be hospitalised for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than non-Māori, and Māori children are one-and-a-half times more likely to have asthma than non-Māori children.

The Ministry of Health says while smoking rates have halved overall in the past 30 years, it has "priority populations where we need to do better - that includes our Māori and Pacific people, where there's a high burden of harm caused by tobacco."

Researchers says more could be done to raise awareness and reduce supply.

"Tobacco is available in every dairy, every supermarket, every gas station," says Prof Edwards.

"We're not trying to reduce the supply of tobacco and we're not doing enough on the mass-media campaigning side."

But for some, like Ms Beaumont, it will take more than money and health warnings to quit.

"If I got sick, if I got cancer or something, then yep, I'll give up."