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NZ smoking rates decrease – but not as fast as Australia

Smokers are a dwindling group in New Zealand with tobacco consumption down 23 per cent in the past five years.

But anti-smoking advocates say rates here are still not falling as fast as in Australia, where the introduction of plain packaging has been credited with a 20 per cent drop in consumption in just three years.

The figures, supplied to the Ministry of Health by New Zealand tobacco manufacturers, show average cigarette consumption has declined 6.3 per cent each year since 2010 equating to a 23 per cent decline in consumption overall.

In Australia figures show consumption has plunged 13 per cent in the last year and 19.6 per cent in the three years since plain packaging laws and tobacco tax increases were introduced.

“Standardised packs and annual tax increases have provided a powerful double-whammy that’s saving many lives across the ditch,” said Smokefree Coalition Chair Dr Jan Pearson.

“New Zealand’s falling smoking rates must have big tobacco worried, but if we stopped playing ‘wait and see’ and introduced standardised packs we’d worry them even more and prevent a lot of sickness and suffering.”

The coalition and another group, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), are calling on Government to make plain packaging legislation an immediate priority.

“Standardised packs are inevitable. Britain and Ireland will introduce them from May next year and the entire European Union is expected to do the same. Many other countries are considering the move and in years to come we’ll wonder what the fuss was about – just as we did with smokefree bars and workplaces,” Dr Pearson said.

“The evidence is clear that plain packaging stops tobacco companies’ ability to advertise through their clever and attractive branding. That means fewer people will die of smoking-related diseases, and fewer children will grow up to become the next generation of addicted smokers. Other states aren’t scared of big tobacco and we shouldn’t be either.”

ASH director Stephanie Erick said standardised packs and annual tax increases were just two of 13 measures Smokefree Coalition members advocate for through an evidence-based National Action Plan to achieve the Smokefree 2025 Goal.

She said smoking rates had reduced sharply in a generation – from 33 per cent of adults in 1983 to less than 15 per cent right now – but more could be done to become smokefree.

The Smokefree National Action Plan was developed by the smokefree sector pending the Government’s development of a strategy towards Smokefree 2025.

The pending development of a governmental tobacco control plan was announced by Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne recently, during his launch of the Alcohol and Drug Policy in August.

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