'Urgent action' needed if smokefree NZ goal to be achieved

  • 02/08/2017

New Zealand will fall well short of its Smokefree 2025 goal unless there is urgent government action, researchers say.

For Māori, who remain the worst affected by smoking, the target might not be reached until "beyond 2060" without a change to the current approach.

A group led by Otago University and Auckland Māori public health organisation Hāpai te Hauora has outlined key measures it says need to be taken.

They include dramatically cutting the number of tobacco retail outlets and gradually increasing the minimum purchase age over time to create future tobacco-free generations.

The group has also proposed increasing tobacco tax by 20 percent annually for three years and setting a new minimum retail price.

It has called for additives to be removed and nicotine content reduced in tobacco products.

Former Māori Party co-leader Dame Tariana Turia says the proposals amount to "a comprehensive action plan" and include interventions in areas not addressed before.

The government wants to reduce smoking to below five percent of adults - the definition of smokefree - by 2025.

Both Otago University and Hāpai te Hauora have previously said drastic measures are needed to achieve that.

Otago's Professor Richard Edwards, who led the development of the action plan, said the current reality was stark.

However, he said there was cause for optimism "if the right actions are implemented without delay".

Prof Edwards said modelling had predicted that smoking prevalence would drop below five percent much more rapidly if three of the suggested actions - 20 percent tax increases, large reductions in tobacco retail outlets and a tobacco-free generation - were implemented together.