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Cancer Society petition calls for significant reduction of tobacco retailers

Cancer Society is petitioning to limit tobacco availability
Photo: Alden Williams/Stuff

This week the Cancer Society launched a petition calling for a significant reduction in the number of shops able to sell tobacco.

Cancer Society Chief Executive Lucy Elwood says New Zealand will not reach its Smokefree 2025 goal without legislation to greatly limit the availability of the most harmful consumer product in history.

“Tobacco kills about 11 New Zealanders every day, yet it can be sold absolutely anywhere,” Elwood says. “The current laws are not protecting our communities from this devastatingly deadly product.”

Public health expert Dr Colin Tukuitonga says bold action is needed in order to achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025.

“It’s a noble goal, but unless we do more things and do things differently, unless the Pacific community gets behind the petition, the likelihood of us reaching that goal for New Zealand is remote.”

On average there are six shops selling tobacco within a 10-minute walk of New Zealand secondary schools. There are four times more tobacco retailers in low-income communities where smoking rates are highest.

“It’s a deliberate strategy on the part of the industry to try and get more young smokers, so that’s why you get those numbers of outlets selling tobacco near secondary schools,” says Tukuitonga.

Although there has been a steady decline in smoking in the past 40 years, an estimated 535,000 adults (13.4%) currently smoke in New Zealand.  Tobacco remains a key driver of health inequalities with prevalence in Māori (31%) and Pacific people (22%) at rates much higher than that of other ethnic groups in New Zealand.

“Smoking in our communities, Pacific communities, remains a problem, and it hasn’t declined since about 2011, 2012, and about one in four Pacific adults continue to smoke,” says Tukuitonga.

“Availability is the big issue. If you look at our [Pacific] communities, there are more outlets selling tobacco and alcohol than in other parts of this town.”

In a 2018 Government funded health and lifestyle survey, 68% of New Zealanders supported making tobacco less available.

New Zealand research also shows school students are less susceptible to smoking when there are a low number of tobacco retailers around their school. Reducing the number of retailers also assists people who want to quit smoking.

Smoking is still the single most preventable cause of cancer and premature death in New Zealand. Every year it kills more people in this country than road accidents, murder, suicide, alcohol and other drugs combined.

Sign the petition here.



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