University public health researchers have joined a call by health watchdogs for commercial cigarettes sales to be phased out by 2020, but have endorsed people being able to legally grow their own tobacco. In submissions to the Maori Affairs select committee inquiry into the tobacco industry, the Smoke-free Coalition quoted a UMR survey showing 64% of New Zealanders supported an end to commercial tobacco sales.
Public health researchers from the University of Otago, Wellington, also pushed today for the government to plan for the 2020 target.
“This plan would reduce smoking prevalence to virtually nil, and end the 5000 deaths a year from smoking,” the researchers said.
Professor Tony Blakely said an end to commercial tobacco sales by 2020 would result in about five extra years of life for Maori by 2040 and an extra three years for non-Maori. That compared to smoking rates staying the same as they were in the 2006 census.
“Completing the phase-out of the sale of tobacco by 2020 would be the single most important and feasible action to reduce Maori mortality and ethnic disparities in this country,” Prof Blakely said.
The researchers recommended that the use of tobacco remain legal after 2020 and that smokers be allowed to continue to grow their own tobacco for personal use only.
Professor Richard Edwards said the phasing out strategy should be accompanied with interim policies to reduce tobacco demand, including plain packaging, larger health warnings, a ban on tobacco displays in retail stores, no duty-free imports, and better assistance for smokers wanting to quit.
“A stronger tobacco tax plan to complement the strategy would help ensure that any extra profits would not go to the international tobacco industry,” Prof Edwards said.
A number of health groups, along with British American Tobacco, have also made submissions to the select committee.