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Health group calls for paradigm shift on smoking policy

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Paloma Migone of NZPA

Wellington, April 21 NZPA - The Government should present a bold plan to make New Zealand largely smokefree in 10 years, a health group says.

The Health Sponsorship Council, a crown entity, was one of many anti-smoking groups at the Maori affairs select committee inquiry into the tobacco industry today.

The inquiry was called to look at the consequences of tobacco use for Maori.

Chief executive Iain Potter told the committee a 10-year plan, counter-attacking cigarette companies' marketing strategies, should be adopted to reduce demand and supply of tobacco.

Mr Potter said the plan must encompass all marketing fundamentals -- product, place, price, and promotion -- instead of slowly implementing changes.

"The historical approach to limit the massively well-documented harms associated with tobacco has been an item-by-item, incremental approach," Mr Potter said.

"If we continue with this item-to-item approach, we will be consigning several more generations of Maori to the ranks and consequently to an early grave. We need a paradigm shift."

Mr Potter suggested the "power of the brand" be diminished by placing cigarettes in plain packaging, and taking displays and other tobacco imagery out of sight.

British American Tobacco New Zealand (BAT) asked the committee last month for current sale displays to remain the same.

BAT manager director Graeme Amey said research showed removing cigarettes and other tobacco products from visibility in retail stores would have little impact on the prevalence of smoking.

Mr Potter, who disagrees, said industry should also be required to provide full disclosure of all ingredients so they can be regulated.

"Tobacco can be made with less addictive and additives, both harmful and those that alter the taste should not be allowed."

The Health Sponsorship Council also recommended tobacco tax be increased and roll-your-own tobacco tax should be equal to tailor-made cigarettes.

The Public Health Association's submission also called on government to introduce plain packaging, ban point-of-sale displays and make major increases to tobacco taxes.

Senior analyst Keriata Stuart told the committee tax increases need to be substantial, regular and highly publicised.

"They can encourage smokers to quit. They can also encourage smokers to cut down.

"But the tax increases need to be preceded by increased funding for services and campaigns."

Mr Potter said New Zealand was ready for drastic change as statistics show 49.8 percent of adults think that cigarettes and tobacco should not be sold in New Zealand in 10 years.

And more than 60 percent of people and 56 percent of Maori agree that tax on cigarettes should be raised. Prime Minister John Key said earlier this year a tobacco tax increase may be considered in this year's budget.

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