Report gives weight to ban tobacco displays

By APN

The banning of retail displays of tobacco has come closer with a cross-party group of MPs recommending the Government adopt the policy to help break the cycle of addiction to smoking.
The landmark report of the Maori affairs select committee, published yesterday following its tobacco inquiry, also calls for the de-branding of cigarette and loose tobacco packets, forcing them into plain packaging with health warnings, the policy Australia intends to implement in 2012.
"Exposure to tobacco through point-of-sale displays, packaging, covert marketing, and whanau who smoke induce children to try tobacco, and thus set them on the path to addiction," said the committee, whose inquiry was instigated by Maori Party MP Hone Harawira.
"In New Zealand, smokers on average start smoking when they are 14, Maori at 11."
Places which have banned retail tobacco displays, or intend to, include Norway, Ireland, Iceland, Thailand, most Canadian provinces, Finland and most Australian states and territories.
Other recommendations include further tax increases after the increases of 10 per cent planned for next year and 2012; shrinking quotas on tobacco imports and retails sales; increasing the maximum fine for sales to minors to $10,000; allowing councils to restrict the number of tobacco outlets; and investigating banning smoking in vehicles and certain public places.
The main aim is to halve tobacco consumption and smoking prevalence by 2015 and to make New Zealand smoke-free by 2025.
"Smoke-free" is widely understood to mean a prevalence of 3 per cent or less.


Currently about 20 per cent of adults are smokers in New Zealand - but the Maori rate is far higher, at more than 40 per cent.
Public health groups have praised the report's recommendations as a bold step to reduce the harms of smoking - an addiction that kills about 5000 New Zealanders a year, including 600 Maori.
Smoking is the greatest preventable cause of death and illness, and consumes $1.9 billion a year in direct healthcare costs.
Smokefree Coalition chairman Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole said: "This is a hugely important report. The coalition is delighted they have set a date for ending the impact of tobacco in New Zealand."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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