Most people who smoke or have recently quit smoking support New Zealand’s goal of becoming a smokefree nation by 2025, researchers at the University of Otago, Wellington have found. They also support many of the specific measures that smokefree practitioners and researchers believe are needed to achieve the goal.
The researchers surveyed 1,020 smokers and recent quitters in 2018. They found more than half of smokers and recent quitters (56 per cent) supported the Government’s goal of reducing smoking to minimal levels by 2025. Almost half (44 per cent) agreed the Government should do more to ensure the goal is achieved.
“The findings are very encouraging, particularly as previous research shows that levels of support among the general population will be even higher.” says Professor Richard Edwards, the principal investigator of the study and co-director of the ASPIRE 2025 smokefree research group.
The researchers also asked smokers and former smokers about their views on measures to reduce the availability, appeal, addictiveness and affordability of cigarettes and rolling tobacco.
They showed strongest support for measures designed to protect young people from smoking, such as banning smoking in cars (92 per cent), raising the legal age of purchase to 21 years (69 per cent), and introducing stronger marketing campaigns designed to prevent young people taking up smoking (73 per cent).
There was also very strong support (78 per cent) for increasing the minimum age of purchase of tobacco each year, a measure which would create a ‘tobacco-free generation’ who would never be able to legally buy tobacco products.
Professor Edwards says there was support too for measures which would reduce the addictiveness and appeal of tobacco products.
“There was very strong support for reducing the amount of nicotine in smoked tobacco products (73 per cent), and majority support for removing additives and flavouring from tobacco products (53 per cent).”
Support for measures to restrict the availability of tobacco products was highest for requiring licensing for tobacco retailers (70 per cent), banning the sale of tobacco products in bars and pubs (62 per cent) and only allowing sales in R18 shops (55 per cent). Almost half (43 per cent) supported greatly reducing the number of places that can sell tobacco products.
Professor Edwards says the measures that drew least support were those aiming to reduce the affordability of tobacco products, such as ongoing tobacco tax increases.
However, there was strong support (59 per cent) for increases in the tax on tobacco, provided the extra revenue was used to support smokers to quit.
Professor Edwards says New Zealand is a long way off being able to achieve smokefree status by 2025, particularly for Māori and Pacific peoples.
“The Government has failed to deliver on its March 2018 promise to develop an action plan to achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025. These findings are a clear signal that a comprehensive action plan to make smoked tobacco products less appealing, addictive, and accessible will attract strong support. These measures are feasible – and acceptable to the public. The Government should develop an action plan as a top priority, as 2025 is rapidly approaching.”
The Health Research Council-funded International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation (ITC) New Zealand Project surveyed 1,020 smokers and recent quitters in 2018, of whom 394 identified as Māori. Participants were recruited from the nationally representative New Zealand Health Survey.
The New Zealand study, carried out in collaboration with the ITC Project team led by the University of Waterloo in Canada, adds to similar evidence from other ITC Project countries such as Canada showing high levels of support for key smokefree policy measures.