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Smokers support Smokefree 2025 goal and measures to help achieve it

MOST people who smoke or have recently quit smoking support New Zealand's goal of becoming a smoke-free nation by 2025, researchers at the University of Otago, Wellington have found.

They also support many of the specific measures that smoke-free practitioners and researchers believe are needed to achieve the goal.

The researchers surveyed 1020 smokers and recent quitters in 2018.

They found more than half of smokers and recent quitters (56 percent) supported the Government's goal of reducing smoking to minimal levels by 2025.

Almost half (44 percent) agreed the Government should do more to ensure the goal is achieved.

The principal investigator of the study and co-director of the ASPIRE 2025 smoke-free research group, Professor Richard Edwards said.” The findings are very encouraging, particularly as previous research shows that levels of support among the general population will be even higher.”

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 percent), raising the legal age of purchase to 21 years (69 percent), and introducing stronger marketing campaigns designed to prevent young people taking up smoking (73 percent).

There was also very strong support (78 percent) 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 said there was support 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 percent), and majority support for removing additives and flavouring from tobacco products (53 percent).”

Support for measures to restrict the availability of tobacco products was highest for requiring licensing for tobacco retailers (70 percent), banning the sale of tobacco products in bars and pubs (62 percent) and only allowing sales in R18 shops (55 percent).

Almost half (43 percent) supported greatly reducing the number of places that can sell tobacco products.

Professor Edwards said the measures that drew the least support were those aiming to reduce the affordability of tobacco products, such as ongoing tobacco tax increases.

However, there was strong support (59 percent) for increases in the tax on tobacco, provided the extra revenue was used to support smokers to quit.

Professor Edwards said New Zealand is a long way off being able to achieve smoke-free status by 2025, particularly for Maori and Pacific peoples.

“The Government has failed to deliver on its March 2018 promise to develop an action plan to achieve a smoke-free Aotearoa by 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.

“The Government should develop an action plan as a top priority, as 2025 is rapidly approaching.”

Professor Richard Edwards