Smokefree 2025: Government hasn't even finished draft for anti-smoking plan

It's been nine years since we set a goal of being smokefree by 2025 but Newshub can reveal the Government is yet to actually make a plan for achieving that goal.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Labour said it was creating a plan but documents show there isn't even a finalised draft.

Anti-smoking organisations are furious saying the former Minister, Jenny Salesa, has failed.

When New Zealand set the ambitious goal of being smokefree by 2025, experts warned we needed Government programmes and intervention. The Government agreed - but the experts are still waiting.

"When it was set nine years ago, that was doable, it's still doable but it's going to take bold actions," says Shayne Nahu, Cancer Society advocacy and wellbeing manager.

Without bold action, non-Māori won't be smokefree until 2038 and Māori won't be smokefree until 2061 - that's 36 years after the target.

Smokefree groups say it's because we've never had a plan.

"Anyone will tell you that if you want to get somewhere you need to have a plan. We have no plan, no milestones other than Smokefree 2025 and that is absolutely not good enough," says Action for Smokefree 2025 (ASH) director Deborah Hart.

National didn't even try to make a plan. In May 2018, Labour's Associate Health Minister at the time Jenny Salesa said she was developing a plan.

Ten months later she told Cabinet it would be finished by October 2019. But more than a year after that, there's still no plan - not even a draft.

"I think she failed her own expectations, and the fact she works in a community, east Manukau, that has some of the highest smoking rates," says Hāpai Te Hauora Tobacco Control general manager Stephanie Erick.

Hāpai te Hauora is the largest iwi-owned public health organisation in Aotearoa but even they struggled to meet with the former minister, Salesa.

"We have not been able to hold enough meetings and when I say meetings I mean at least once a year with the Associate Minister of Health at that time to be able to talk about the plan," Erick says.

Salesa declined to be interviewed for this story. She's no longer responsible for the smokefree goal - she lost all three of her ministerial portfolios when Labour was re-elected. And the new Associate Health Minister, Dr Ayesha Verrall, couldn't say why Salesa didn't develop a smokefree plan.

"I haven't had a chance to talk to Jenny about that," Dr Verrall says.

Not having a smokefree plan is costing Kiwis' lives. Smoking is responsible for more than 8 percent of all illness and premature death in New Zealand - about 5000 deaths a year.

"Every day that we waste is another 12 people who die," Hart says.

There's wide agreement on what should be in the plan.


  • Quick changes that don't need new legislation
  • A large anti-smoking media campaign
  • Encouragement of less harmful alternatives like vaping
  • Investment in community-based quit programmes


  • New legislation
  • Banning filters
  • Removing additives that make smoking more enjoyable like menthol
  • Reducing supply

"We need to reduce the number of retail outlets where you can buy cigarettes, this kills people but it can be bought anywhere," Nahu says.

Labour's health policy before this year's election said a Smokefree 2025 Action Plan was "an immediate priority".

"So I would expect to see that document in the first 100 days of this Government," Hart says.

That'd be before January 25 which is unlikely. Dr Verrall won't be more specific than saying she'll have a plan some time next year.

"We really want to put that out for consultation so people will be able to see that shortly," she says. "We need to make sure that we use all the tools in our tool kit well."

Crucially, she has the support of the smokefree sector.

"She has the characteristics and qualities to make a change to help us achieve Smokefree 2025," Erick says.

Smokefree isn't actually a complete end to smoking, it means less than 5 percent of us smoking. Achieving it is still considered possible - barely.

"We're not on track to get to Smokefree 2025," Hart says. "It's not too late but it soon will be."

Experts are unanimous there is a way, we just need the will.