Quit smoking groups are welcoming Jenny Salesa as the new Minister responsible for tobacco control and calling on her to take ‘urgent’ and ‘courageous’ steps to meet the Smokefree 2025 goal.

Boyd Broughton, programme manager of ASH (Action for Smokefree 2025) said there was a “lot of catching up to do” to meet the challenge of Smokefree 2025 (see goal definition below) and it hoped that the new Associate Minister of Health was ready to “embrace the challenge”.

The latest 2016/17 New Zealand Health Survey statistics show that 15.7 per cent of all Kiwi adults are still smokers – just 0.6 per cent lower than the previous year and the rate has dropped just two per cent in the last four years. The smoking rate for Māori women remains high 38.2 per cent – down from just under 40 per cent the year before.

Broughton said the Minister could make progress with some simple and urgent steps in their first term of the new Government. “Despite setting a goal for a Smokefree 2025, the last Government had no plan to achieve this. We encourage the Minister to prioritise a plan to achieve the goal”.

Hāpai Te Hauora, the Māori Public Health agency that provides the National Tobacco Control Advocacy Service, also welcomed Salesa to her new role.  It said achieving a Smokefree Aoteroa was “possible but not certain” and said getting on track should be a priority for central government.

“We hope that Minister Salesa challenges the status quo with courageous, bold and early moves to finally put an end to the harm caused by tobacco,” said the agency in a press release.  It said it proposed an effective supply reduction policy that aligns with others calling for removal of tobacco from their communities.  It pointed to the Achieving Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025 (ASAP) plan as a ‘road map’ for the Minister to “support harm reduction and reduce the accessibility, appeal and affordability of combustible tobacco in New Zealand”.

Broughton said other action ASH is proposing to the Minister includes reinvesting in evidence based Smokefree mass media, making cigarettes less addictive and supporting less harmful alternatives to cigarettes.

“Minister Salesa is from south Auckland, where there are some of the highest smoking rates for Maori and Pacific peoples,” said Broughton. “As a South-sider, and New Zealand’s first Tongan born Minister, Ms Salesa will have some strong motivation to tackle the tobacco industry and will enjoy some really united community support to deliver on Smokefree 2025.”

Smokefree 2025 Goal

The initial Smokefree 2025 goal set by the last Government was: “reducing smoking prevalence and tobacco availability to minimal levels, thereby making New Zealand essentially a smokefree nation by 2025”.

The ASAP plan advocates are recommending the goal be: “to reduce the prevalence of daily smoked tobacco use to less than 5%, and as close as possible to 0%, by December 2025”.

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