May 13, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori Select Committee told of need to end tobacco sales

2 min read

Public health researchers from the University of Otago, Wellington have called for a clear Government plan to totally phase-out commercial tobacco sales in New Zealand by 2020.

This plan would reduce smoking prevalence to virtually nil, and end the 5000 deaths a year from smoking. The recommendations are made in a detailed submission to the Maori Select Committee now inquiring into the tobacco industry and the consequences of tobacco use for Maori.

Professor Tony Blakely told the Committee that an end to commercial tobacco sales by 2020 would result in about five extra years of life for Maori by 2040 and an extra three years for non-Maori. This is compared to smoking rates staying the same as they were in the 2006 census.

Completing the phase-out of the sale of tobacco by 2020 would be the single most important and feasible action to reduce Maori mortality and ethnic disparities in this country, he says.

The researchers recommend reducing import quotas of tobacco; in effect a sinking lid policy on supply over the next decade, until all tobacco sales end. However they recommend the use of tobacco remains legal after 2020, and that smokers be allowed to continue to grow their own tobacco for personal use only.

Professor Richard Edwards, head of the Department of Public Health, said: This type of strategy should be accompanied with other effective interim policies to reduce demand for tobacco.

These include plain packaging, larger health warnings, a ban on tobacco displays in retail stores, no duty-free imports, and much better assistance for smokers wanting to quit.

A stronger tobacco tax plan to complement the strategy would help ensure that any extra profits would not go to the international tobacco industry. Professor Edwards says that the ending of similar unhealthy imports, such as leaded petrol and asbestos, provide good precedents.

The researchers provided evidence to the Maori Select Committee showing clear public support for fundamental changes in government tobacco policy. They say research shows that already 50% of the public back an end to tobacco sales in 10 years time, and only 30% oppose it.

In the full written submission, Associate Professor Nick Wilson pointed out that when smokers are asked a similar question, with the rider that an effective nicotine replacement supply is available, over 44% want an end to tobacco sales.

He said that the team had provided a report to the Committee detailing how any emerging illicit sales problem could be prevented by present and new policies, and that the issue was a red herring pushed by the tobacco industry.

The Committee was told that there is a critical need to move from the governments current piecemeal approach to the tobacco epidemic, to a comprehensive endgame policy package that has a clear timetable to phase-out sales, and that would end smoking as a major problem for New Zealand.

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