Tough tobacco report likely

By Martin Johnston

Photo / Peter Meecham
Photo / Peter Meecham

The long-awaited report of the Maori Affairs select committee inquiry on tobacco is likely to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow.

Indications are that it will be far-reaching and satisfy at least some demands of campaigners who saw the inquiry as a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate commercial tobacco within a decade.

Chairman and National MP Tau Henare, who gave up smoking "cold turkey" three months ago after a heart attack, said the committee would consider its final report today.

"It will be tabled, most probably, on Thursday."

He would not be drawn on what law changes the committee would ask the Government for, following the inquiry into the tobacco industry and the consequences of smoking for Maori.

About 20 per cent of adults smoke in New Zealand, but the rate for Maori is far higher, at more than 40 per cent.

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia is already considering what action to take over responses to a proposal to ban retail displays of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Many consider these "power-wall displays" in shops a form of tobacco advertising and one which particularly influences young people to smoke.

The Health Ministry has reported to Mrs Turia about its public consultation on banning displays. Any action by the Government on this is likely to be wrapped up with its response to the select committee's recommendations.

Many submitters urged the committee to recommend tough measures such as:

* Banning retail displays.

* Requiring all tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging with brand names in uniform lettering and large health warnings.

* Progressively reducing the nicotine content of tobacco.

* Requiring tobacco retailers to be licensed, and gradually reducing the number of licences.

* Regulating, and progressively reducing, tobacco imports.

* Annual tobacco tax increases of at least 20 per cent.

- NZ Herald

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