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Smoke-free Whangarei by 2025

An open letter from the Mayor to the leaders of all political parties.


Requesting your Support for Smoke-free Whangarei by 2025

As Mayor of Whangarei I write to request your support, and that of your Party, for a unanimous Whangarei District Council decision to ban the sale of all tobacco products in our district by 2025.

As you will be aware, Northland is overrepresented in smoking-related health statistics. It is therefore fitting that the largest council in the region takes a national leadership role by making the call for commercial sales of tobacco and cigarettes to be banned by 1 January 2025.

A total ban on sales might sound harsh, but if cigarettes were a new product to the market, they would most likely not be permitted due to their potential health effects, addictive nature and appeal to young people. Smokers are a steadily shrinking minority, and a huge proportion of them regret having started and would welcome further initiatives aimed at helping them to quit.

Research shows the public’s appetite for smoking has reduced sharply in the last 40-50 years, and there is widespread public support for the goal of being largely smoke-free by 2025. Whangarei councillors support and encourage this goal.

This call is for a ban on the production, importation and sale of tobacco products. It would not prevent someone growing tobacco for their personal use, nor would it make smoking a criminal offence.

Smoking itself would not be illegal, so overseas tourists who smoke would be free to bring in their own supplies and consume them here in designated smoking areas.

The purpose of the ban is to ensure New Zealand reaches its goal of ‘close to zero’ smoking by 2025, and achieves it faster and more easily.

Banning sales is unlikely to drive the market underground and create a criminal tobacco empire. The banning of legal highs came into force relatively without incident, and New Zealand’s geographical isolation and strong border controls would also help.

There is low risk of political or public backlash from those who favour minimal intervention, as evidenced by recent increases in tobacco sales’ taxes and the point of sales display ban, which were passed with strong parliamentary support.

There is a precedent for a total ban. Bhutan, in southern Asia, has already banned the sale and distribution of tobacco. The incidence of smoking in Bhutan, at 2.8%, is the lowest in Asia and one of the lowest in the world. Other countries will inevitably follow.

My Council believes this proposed ban is entirely reasonable and desirable, and consistent with the clean and green image New Zealand is keen to portray. Your assistance or overt TRIM no 14/78475 support of Whangarei District Council’s stance would be immensely valuable in progressing

this initiative to the point of gaining wide public and council acceptance and engagement, and would certainly be in the best health interests of this generation of New Zealanders and those to come.

Yours faithfully,

Sheryl Mai

Mayor of Whangarei

ends

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