Māori Party MP Marama Fox wants dairies to need cigarette licenses

  • 15/09/2016
Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox (Newshub. / file)
Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox (Newshub. / file)

By Chris Holden

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox is calling for significant changes to cigarette laws in New Zealand.

First, she wants annual tax increases on cigarettes to be increased from 10 percent to 20 percent.

Second, she wants non-light cigarettes banned and replaced with "low tar-only cigarettes", which Ms Fox described as menthol and blue varieties.

Third, she wants retailers to need a licence to sell cigarettes.

"If you have five dairies in one area, one of them could get it."

Fourth, she wants the purchase age for cigarettes raised from 18 to 25.

Ms Fox believes if changes aren't made, New Zealand "will not reach our goal of being smoke-free Aotearoa until 2060".

The Government's goal is for New Zealand to be smoke-free by 2025, but Ms Fox says "we are running out of time [to reach the goal] because the Minister is so slow".

Cigarettes are "straight-out poison", she says. According to the Ministry of Health, half the people that use them long-term will die from smoking-related disease.

Around 5000 New Zealanders die from smoking per year.

Combating cigarette-related harm has become personal for the first-term MP, who called a tobacco lobbyist a "peddler of death" during an interview on The Nation in July.

"[Smoking diseases] are putting our people in the graveyard, and you and your companies are addicting people to cigarettes and telling us it's their free choice and that's fine, [cigarette companies] are going to profit off the death of your people," she said on the show.

Data from the New Zealand Health Survey in 2015 shows smoking rates have dropped among most groups.

The number of adults smoking has dropped from 20 percent to 17 percent in recent years. Similarly, the number of youth smoking has declined from 16 percent to 6 percent.