Historic step towards smokefree future

  • Hon Dr Ayesha Verrall

Bold new measures will be implemented, including banning the sale of cigarettes to future generations, as part of the Government's plan to make New Zealand smokefree.

Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall launched Auahi Kore Aotearoa Mahere Rautaki 2025, the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan at an event in Parliament this morning.

"This is a historic day for the health of our people," Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said.

"Smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand and causes one in four cancers. Smoking related harm is particularly prevalent in our Māori, Pacific and low income communities.

"While smoking rates are heading in the right direction, we need to do more, faster to reach our goal. If nothing changes, it would be decades till Māori smoking rates fall below 5 percent, and this Government is not prepared to leave people behind.

"We've already seen the full impact of excise tax increases. The Government recognises that going further will not help people quit, it will only further punish smokers who are struggling to kick the habit. That's why, our plan, released today contains new measures to help us get to our goal.

"We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offence to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth. People aged 14 when the law comes into effect will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.

"We are also reducing the appeal, addictiveness and availability of smoked tobacco products. New laws will mean only smoked tobacco products containing very low-levels of nicotine can be sold, with a significant reduction in the number of shops who can sell them.

"The changes will not come into effect immediately, giving retailers time to transition to a new business model.

"Alongside policies in the action plan that will become law, practical support measures for smokers are also being prioritised.

"Preventing people from starting to smoke and helping those who smoke to quit means we are covering both ends of the spectrum.

"We know it's really tough to break the habit and some people who smoke will understandably need lots of support leading up to these changes taking effect.

"Budget 2021 provided $36 million for health promotion programmes, scaling up stop smoking services and for Pacific health providers so they can tailor support for Pacific communities."

Smokefree taskforce

"We are establishing a Māori Advisory Taskforce to bring robust decision-making and leadership to the action plan, with a focus on achieving better outcomes for Māori."

The chair is Dame Tariana Turia DNZM. The other members are former Te Tai Tokerau MP, Hone Harawira; Research Evaluation Consultancy Director, Nan Wehipeihana; Executive Director of Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora, Donna Matahaere-Atariki MNZM; and Hāpai Te Hauora Chief Executive Officer, Selah Hart. Each member is a leader in advancing health for Māori and offers a unique blend of expertise including knowledge of tobacco control and the public health sector.

Through evaluation, monitoring and reporting, the taskforce will ensure the Ministry of Health, Government and the tobacco control sector remain accountable to the actions in the plan.

"I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the hard mahi of smokefree champions past and present which has helped us get to where we are now. I would also like to thank New Zealanders who have helped shape the plan by telling us what matters most to them," Dr Ayesha Verrall said.

A Pacific Advisory Group is also being stood up in the new year.

Notes to editors:

  • A copy of the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan, fact sheets and educational tools are available on the Ministry of Health website in the Smokefree section
  • The Cabinet paper and Regulatory Impact Statement will be available here later this afternoon
  • Implementation timeline is attached
  • A copy of the Minister's speech will be available on the Beehive website later today
  • Attached is also a copy of the bios of the Taskforce members.
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