The New Zealand Government has announced that they will ban the tobacco industry in the next generation. It’s part of a new campaign to combat smoking addiction in young people, which has been called ‘Tobacco-Free Generation’.
New Zealand isn’t the only country looking to rid its society of cigarettes. The Australian Government also plans to introduce an ‘ideas factory’ for public input on how they can reduce cigarette consumption among young people.
New Zealand is the most densely populated country in the world, and has a population of 4.4 million people – that’s about one-quarter of New Zealand’s entire landmass. With such a high rate of people, smoking rates in New Zealand are at an all-time low. The Ministry for Health campaign has been working to tackle this for years but has only seen results since the year 2000.
A recent survey suggests that a major reason for this success is because smoking rates have fallen among young people over the past decade. However, according to Michael Brady from the Department of Health: “That may be temporary and we want to ensure we don’t lose these gains when they go up again in the future.”
New Zealand smoking rates (2001-2016) by age group:
The fact that smoking rates among young New Zealanders have fallen over the past decade suggests that these temporary drops are due to successful public health campaigns aimed at encouraging young people to quit. These campaigns have included graphic pictures on cigarette packaging, which has been used since 2003.
Nonetheless, the government has no plans to stop these campaigns, as they aim to make New Zealand one of Australia’s ‘cleanest’ countries. According to Associate Health Minister James Shaw: “We want our country not just to be smokefree today, but also in 30 years and beyond.”
But of course, it’s not just the government who wants to tackle this issue. The New Zealand Cancer Society supports the government’s efforts to introduce a tobacco-free generation and has contributed $5 million in funding to help achieve this goal. This is part of their campaign – ‘Quitline’ – which offers support to people trying to quit smoking.
Unsurprisingly, tobacco companies have reacted negatively to this idea.
According to Phillip Morris: “We are disappointed that the New Zealand government has chosen to take this short-term strategy, rather than working collaboratively with tobacco product manufacturers to develop longer-term and more effective health harm reduction initiatives. Unfortunately, the government is using taxpayers’ money in this way.”
Whether or not public health campaigns will succeed in reducing smoking rates remains to be seen. But it’s certainly possible that this campaign could lead to a tobacco-free generation in New Zealand – which would then become the first country in the world without any smokers whatsoever.
New Zealand is planning to sell off its national tobacco quota for the first time, and stop importing tobacco products from Australia. This follows a ban of tobacco sales in plain packaging from September 2012, as well as smoke-free bans in many public places since 2008. David Leyonhjelm, Liberal Democratic Senator: “They’ve been taking the much tougher action and we’re on our way to becoming the first non-smoking country in the world.”
Campaigners concede that it’s not a straightforward task to achieve this goal – but they do still hope that they can achieve it by 2025.
According to Lynne Pillinger, National Tobacco Control Manager: “It’s going to be quite a big change… we need to just keep at it. We are fully committed.”
Support for the campaign has been largely positive so far. The Green Party of New Zealand has already agreed to support the proposals, and National Social Development spokesperson Anne Tolley has said that she fully supports it: “It’s about preventing future generations growing up with a lifetime of nicotine addiction that is unnecessary.”
However, tobacco companies have said that they’re worried that sales will fall if the new policy goes ahead. The New Zealand company owned by the British American Tobacco group, Rothmans International, has said that they are particularly worried about ‘black market’ sales of cigarettes in New Zealand. They say this would lead to an increase in cigarette smuggling to other countries, including Australia.
The four major tobacco companies have made a joint submission to the government to ask for more time to respond before legislation is passed. According to Philip Morris: “The current plan would see an end to all imports of tobacco products for personal use from Australia and a ban on placing orders for future imports.”
Meanwhile, the Government has already received nearly 100 submissions on the new legislation. However, it is not yet known when they will decide whether or not to pass the new legislation before the election in September. If a new government isn’t elected then New Zealand could join South Africa and Uruguay as being the only two countries without tobacco products. However, if a new government is elected it will likely become law.
The British American Tobacco company is the largest in the world and has been operating in New Zealand since 1825.
When the laws were introduced banning the use of cigarettes in a public place without a permit they refused to provide their services to companies that didn’t comply with these laws.
However, this did not put off Philip Morris from moving their importation facilities to New Zealand as they grow close with local retailers. The British American Tobacco group has been in South Africa since 2001, but started operations in New Zealand before Rothmans International did (in 1964). Their slogan for cigarettes used in both countries reads “LIFE is better. So is DETOX”.
The Australian Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance is made up of cigarette retailers who support the Australian Government’s policies to reduce the amount of tobacco consumption in the country. The group has agreed to support the New Zealand government and has said that they will do ‘whatever it takes to make sure that New Zealand continues to be a major market for them.
Despite having its website, Australia has already been trying its best to discourage smoking habits in its country. It has introduced minimum pricing on cigarettes, as well as advertising bans, which have helped raise awareness about smoking amongst young people. However, it seems that these efforts may soon come to an end.
According to the Australian Government:
Although it is an unlikely target of this campaign, it has gained some traction among non-smokers. According to The New Zealand Herald: “A third of those polled said they would like to see the ban extended to include electronic cigarettes.” Although they do not have a big impact on anyone’s health and are not associated with tobacco companies, they still have gotten a lot more attention than they usually receive.