Call to make NZ smokefree

MARTIN KAY
Last updated 05:00 04/11/2010

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Maori Party MP Hone Harawira has challenged the Government to crack down on the tobacco industry after a parliamentary report recommended measures to make New Zealand smokefree within 15 years.

Mr Harawira said he hoped Maori Party co-leader and Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia would prepare legislation enforcing many of the recommendations in a Maori Affairs select committee report that says the Government should aim to halve smoking rates by 2015 and eliminate it altogether by 2025.

The report makes it clear the goal would be to have a population in which nobody smoked, rather than banning smoking or tobacco products.

It sets out measures to achieve the aims, including restricting the amount of tobacco that is imported and limits on sales and the number of outlets that can stock it.

It also calls for tobacco to be sold in plain packaging, reducing the impact of marketing, making tobacco companies fund products to help smokers kick the habit, a ban on retail displays and cigarette vending machines and cutting duty free allowances.

Mr Harawira brought the tobacco issue to the committee, and said the report gave Mrs Turia, who has responsibility for tobacco control, a mandate to issue sweeping limits on the industry.

"This report gives Tariana all the ammunition she needs to put a great big dent in the actions of the tobacco industry. It's about going after the killer, not the victim."

Mrs Turia's spokeswoman said she would not comment till she had read the report.

But the recommendations brought an angry response from the Association of Community Retailers, which said the proposals were a recipe for organised crime and would create a dangerous environment for small shops.

"Limiting supply will only open up our country to a huge black market and organised crime," spokesman Richard Green said.

"Demand will be filled. If not legally, then illegally. It's a matter of simple economics." He believed tobacco tax increases in April had already led to a rise in small shop robberies and further hikes would increase the danger.

Paula Snowden, chief executive of stop smoking organisation the Quit Group, said the report was a landmark document that would tackle the high rates of sickness and death among Maori caused by smoking.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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