The hikoi's message was clear: There's no future in smoking.
Almost 50 people carrying banners and placards marched through Whangarei from Laurie Hall park, down Bank St and on to Cameron St Mall yesterday to get across the smoke-free message on World Smokefree Day.
In the mall a stall was set up to give out information on being smoke-free, provide entertainment and for former smokers to tell their tales of quitting.
Northland District Health Board Smokefree adviser Bridget Rowse said Smokefree Day, and the tobacco display ban that was about to come into effect, was a great chance for households to contribute to the health of future generations and Northland had a lot to celebrate.
"We've seen the biggest drop in youth smoking in almost a decade, with 3.9 per cent of Year 10 [Northland] students smoking daily compared to 4.1 per cent nationally. Tobacco sales are down 14 per cent and 95 per cent of smokers seen in our hospitals are offered brief advice and support to quit," she said.
"Tobacco is on the way out and our role now is to create an environment that discourages young people from experimenting with the habit and to support those who want to quit."
Ms Rowse said the aim for a smoke-free country by 2025 was not about banning smoking or some sort of prohibition but to create a country where less than 5 per cent of the population smoked.
For help with quitting, talk to a health professional, an Aukati Kai Paipa quit coach (www.aukatikaipaipa.co.nz), call Quitline on 0800 778 7788 or visit www.quit.org.nz.
A DYING HABIT
About 5000 New Zealanders, 600 of them Maori, die every year from tobacco-related causes.
Tobacco is related to a quarter of all deaths in Northland and 47 per cent of all Maori deaths in the region and is a major factor in the difference of 14.9 years in life expectancy between Maori and non-Maori in the region.
Damage caused by smoking is a major problem in Northland, with smoking-related hospitalisations 1.5 times higher than the national rate.