3 Nov 2010

Call for NZ to be smoke-free by 2025

9:10 pm on 3 November 2010

A parliamentary select committee is recommending that New Zealand should aim to become smoke-free by 2025.

The Maori Affairs Select Committee has released a report saying that the 260 submissions it received on the issue, along with many supplementary submissions and 1700 form letters, have given it a very detailed, accurate representation of the wide-ranging impact of tobacco on New Zealand.

It wants to shift the focus of tobacco policy away from smokers to the tobacco industry.

The select committee has recommended that New Zealand halve tobacco consumption by 2015 and be smoke-free by 2025.

The report recommends plain packaging of tobacco products, lowering the volume of tobacco imports by a set percentage and sales restricted to specialist, low-profile shops.

It wants financial, ethical and legal pressure placed on the tobacco industry, including requiring it to pay for all smoking-cessation drugs.

PM backs price increases

A Labour member of the committee, Kelvin Davis, says the committee wants to stop tobacco companies using colour in packaging to attract people and using words such as "mild or "low-tar" to imply that such cigarettes are healthier.

Prime Minister John Key says that a smoke-free New Zealand by 2025 would be difficult to achieve but that the committee's call for a crackdown on tobacco marketing is being looked at.

For now, Mr Key says, the Government is focusing on price increases as the best way to cut tobacco use.

The smoking rate has fallen from 30% in 1986 to about 21%.

Phase-out 'will encourage black market'

The New Zealand arm of British American Tobacco says phasing out tobacco products by 2025 will simply encourage a black market.

British American Tobacco says the report's proposals fail to recognise that if demand exists for certain products, consumers will find a source to satisfy that demand.

Its head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs, Susan Jones, says a ban on tobacco will fuel an already thriving illegal market and create greater profit opportunities for gangs of organised criminals.