Minister releases Tobacco Action Plan

  • Annette King

The Government’s action plan on reducing smoking was released today by Health Minister Annette King. The plan outlines initiatives designed to reduce the number of New Zealanders who die or suffer ill health as a result of smoking tobacco.

"New Zealand is recognised internationally as having a comprehensive tobacco control strategy - our rate of tobacco consumption is among the lowest in the world. Despite this there are still far too many New Zealanders smoking - particularly Mäori and young people," said Mrs King.

"The release of this action plan lets people see exactly what we are doing to reduce tobacco-related illness and death. It also enables groups and individuals to have an input into the future direction of tobacco control in this country."

Mrs King said key initiatives in the tobacco action plan included the smokefree Bill currently before Parliament.

"Close to 400 New Zealanders die every year because of exposure to second-hand smoke. A major focus of the smokefree Bill is to improve protection of people from exposure to other people’s smoke, particularly in their work places.

"The plan also includes cessation initiatives, such as the national freephone Quitline (0800 778 778), subsidised nicotine patches and gum, enforcement of the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990, and details of research being carried out into tobacco issues.

Mrs King emphasised that the plan focuses largely on the work of the Ministry of Health and Health Funding Authority.

"I recognise that non-government organisations and health workers make an invaluable contribution to tobacco control - for example, in the promotion of smokefree environments and quitting smoking. The Government relies heavily on these groups and individuals to take the smokefree message to the community.

"This action plan, however, is a statement of the Government’s role in tobacco control. I would welcome input on what we could do better and ideas for new initiatives to reduce smoking."

Mrs King said the Ministry of Health would shortly be releasing a framework for obtaining better input into the National Drug Policy from groups, organisations and individuals. The National Drug Policy sets out the Government’s policy and intentions with regard to tobacco, alcohol, and illicit and other drugs. It relies on the combined efforts of all government and non-government agencies.

"As part of this improved communication, a National Drug Policy website is being developed to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ for information on drugs - including illicit drugs and alcohol, as well as tobacco. The website will have input from a number of agencies including Police, Justice, Education, Te Puni Kokiri, the Alcohol Advisory Council, and Youth Affairs," said Mrs King.