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The tobacco report: A kaupapa to save 5000 lives a year


Friday 26 November 2010 9:10am

An editorial in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal describes the recent Māori Affairs Select Committee (MASC) report on tobacco as bold and visionary.

Researchers from the University of Otago, Wellington, and from Whakauae Research for Maori Health and Development congratulate the Committee for providing leadership on ending the tobacco epidemic for Māori and for all other New Zealanders.

They note that some of the report’s recommendations are already in progress through a Bill forwarded by the Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia the day after the report’s release, but the researchers also identify 15 other recommendations that could be implemented immediately. For example, prohibiting vending machines and smoking in cars.

The NZMJ editorial welcomes the way the report goes beyond the Government’s current strategy, which focuses mainly on smoking cessation, and makes it clear that broad policy interventions are necessary, including measures aimed at directly limiting tobacco supply and preventing smoking in the first place.

The editorial also calls for a clear Government and health sector plan, supported by legislation, to ensure the smoke-free goal is met.

“The Maori Affairs Select Committee has provided a landmark report,” says Professor Tony Blakely. “Now it’s over to the Ministry of Health or other officials to put the meat on the bones, and develop a world-leading strategy in the first half of 2011.”

Co-author Dr Gifford, of Whakauae Research, applauds the report’s focus on the tobacco industry rather than the smoker, and on Māori led solutions to the very high rates of smoking among Māori.

The researchers point out that the MASC is in step with public opinion. Research shows that a majority of the community support the limiting of tobacco retailers and the introduction of plain tobacco packs.

The goal of a smokefree New Zealand by 2025 is the first such proposal in the world by an official body with a specific date. Another of the authors, Professor Richard Edwards, said the goal of a smokefree New Zealand by 2025 needs to be embedded into law, as does the requirement that the political and public policy process be protected from tobacco industry influence.

The researchers argue that the policy backbone to achieving the 2025 vision should be implemented through at least one of three mechanisms: progressively limiting the supply of tobacco products through import controls; an ongoing series of large tobacco tax rises; or the regulation of tobacco product constituents, such as nicotine.

For further information contact

Professor Tony Blakely
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington

Dr Heather Gifford
Whakauae Research for Maori Health and Development
Tel +64 6 347 6772

Professor Richard Edwards
Department of Public Health
University of Otago, Wellington
Tel +64 4 918 5089


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