Aotearoa New Zealand’s proactive history of attempting to reduce the consumption of tobacco, dates back many decades. Measures from consecutive governments have included issuing blunt health warnings then later plain packaging on cigarette packets; banning smoking in offices, built environments, public places and more recently motor vehicles carrying children and young people under 18 years of age; and an ambitious Smokefree 2025 action plan.
This trajectory has by and large seemed clear and unwavering, which is why the new government’s decision to repeal smokefree legislation is both disappointing and perplexing. Such measures are vital for public health, especially in combating illnesses related to tobacco use, and the potential impact of this repeal on public health should not be underestimated.
Manatū Hauora (Ministry of Health) statistics show that half of all long-term smokers will die from a smoking-related disease, and around 5,000 people die each year (or 13 a day) in New Zealand because of smoking or second-hand smoke exposure.
We eagerly await the launch of the new government’s 100-day action plan, particularly on health. Whether the legislation is amended, unchanged, or repealed, we will continue working alongside others to advocate in this space.