New Zealand’s Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) strategy is working exceptionally well with the country increasingly on target to achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025,” says Nancy Loucas, co-founder of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
Her comments follow the Government releasing statistics which show New Zealand’s smoking rate has fallen to an historic low of 8% of adults smoking daily, down from 9.4% a year ago.
“New Zealand’s smoking rates are now half of what they were 10 years ago. In the past year alone the number of people smoking fell by 56,000. That is amazing when you consider the extra stress on people with the pandemic and increasing cost of living,” says Ms Loucas.
Also notably, the overall daily smoking rate for Māori is at a low of 19.9%, down from 22.3% in 2020/21. At the same time, 8.3% of all Kiwi adults are now vaping daily.
AVCA says the Government has done well making stop smoking services more accessible and introducing tailored Māori and Pacific services. A key component has been the development of the trusted Ministry of Health site www.vapingfacts.health.nz/
“Other countries have seen a rise in their smoking rates during the Covid lockdowns and restrictions, but New Zealand has once again bucked the trend. That’s because our Ministry of Health and health providers have adopted a THR strategy, transitioning smokers to vaping as a safe and incredibly effective smoking cessation tool,” says Ms Loucas.
AVCA believes New Zealand could achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 – where five percent or fewer Kiwis smoke regularly.
Another boost to the decade-long national goal will be The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill. Parliament’s health select committee is due to report back on it by 1 December.
Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall aims to have the smokefree legislation passed by the end of the year. It will decrease the number of retail outlets able to sell tobacco, reduce the appeal of cigarettes, and ensure the next generation are never sold tobacco.
Dr Verrall is a staunch advocate of adopting a THR approach to reduce deadly smoking. She recently said: ‘We need to continue supporting people who smoke tobacco to successfully switch to less harmful products.’
“New Zealand is showing the world how to achieve smokefree. These latest statistics are more proof that countries which adopt a THR approach to public health end up saving a lot of lives,” says Nancy Loucas.