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Backing For Tobacco Control Proposals

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Tau Henare
Tau Henare

Opposition parties and anti-smoking lobby groups are backing tough new recommendations for controlling tobacco.

Parliament's Maori affairs select committee, after a year-long inquiry, today released a report setting goals of halving smoking by 2015 and turning New Zealand into a smokefree nation by 2025.

It wants the Government to reduce the amount of tobacco imported, force tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging, extend smokefree areas to vehicles, ban vending machines, make tobacco companies fund smoking cessation products and ban tobacco displays in shops.

"The committee wanted to come up with a hard-hitting report that the Government can pick up and run with to improve the health of Maori and of all New Zealanders, and we think we have done that," said committee chairman Tau Henare.

"Our package of recommendations concentrates on putting financial, ethical and legal pressure primarily on the tobacco industry instead of just focusing on smokers."

Most of the recommendations were known yesterday, and Prime Minister John Key reacted cautiously.

He said it would be "a huge ask" to achieve the smokefree by 2025 goal and the most effective way to reduce smoking was to make tobacco more expensive, which the Government was doing through a series of price increases.

Labour leader Phil Goff said today the report was a huge challenge for the Government.

He said his party supported ridding shops of tobacco displays and having cigarettes and tobacco sold in plain packaging.

"Labour is calling on John Key to step up and support commonsense recommendations that will result in a healthier population," he said.

The Green Party called for "serious action" and said the tobacco industry had to be made to take responsibility for the harm it caused.

"We need to get smokes out of our homes and out of our shops," said co-leader Metiria Turei.

"Too often the focus is on punishing smokers and not controlling the industry that profits from the drug."

The Public Health Association said the committee's report was a landmark in smokefree initiatives.

"New Zealand needs to tackle the problem on all fronts," said Maori public health advisor Keriata Stuart.

"Halving smoking rates among Maori by 2015 will be particularly challenging, so developing a comprehensive action plan designed specifically by Maori for Maori will be necessary."

Action on Smoking and Health was delighted with the report and said yesterday New Zealand had let the tobacco industry aggressively promote its products for too long.

Doctors and nurses welcomed the report.

"Too much of the healthcare dollar is spent on the avoidable harm caused by smoking", the College of GPs said.

"Too many people have their lives damaged or shortened by tobacco. Too many families lose loved ones before their time."

The Nurses Organisation said the recommendations would hit tobacco companies in the only place it mattered -- their wallets.

The goal of a smokefree nation by 2025 was "a brave vision" but could be achieved.

The Association of Convenience Stores (NZACS) said it couldn't support recommendations that forced significant costs onto retailers.

"Forcing retailers to cough up thousands of dollars to hide tobacco away from their customers will do little aside from placing greater risks on retailers who will be forced to constantly hunt for a product that makes up to 40 percent of their sales," said NZACS chairman Roger Bull.

"NZACS has said all along that a relatively simple solution is available -- that of greater enforcement of existing tobacco regulations."


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