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Plain Pack Research Should Encourage More Smokefree 2025 Mahi

Hāpai Te Hauora welcomes new research from Otago University which shows plain packaging has taken the appeal out of cigarette packets. The researchers says the study shows that making cigarette packaging standard in New Zealand in 2018 has hit the policy target, which was to make tobacco products less appealing and to make health warnings on cigarette packs more obvious.

Hāpai Te Hauora helped with the push for plain packs seven years ago, and CEO Selah Hart is pleased to see this sign of success in New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 journey. Says Hart, "We want to acknowledge the work of our former kaimahi Zoe Hawke, who led the Māori tobacco control contract for Hāpai back in 2013 and was part of the group that helped get the plain packaging legislation through."

General Manager of the National Tobacco Control Advocacy Service at Hāpai Te Hauora Stephanie Erick hopes the current research will lead to fairer outcomes for Māori and push policy makers to offer more help to those who smoke to quit.

Stephanie Erick says it’s important to have more research around specific communities, especially in areas where there is a lot of tobacco sold. "One of the big question now is if two-thirds of Māori are smoke-free, what’s different about the other third?" says Erick, "and what’s going to specifically help communities where there are lots of people still smoking?"

So far it’s non-Māori who have shown the biggest reductions in smoking rates. The study shows similar reactions to plain packs among non-Māori and Māori, and that’s not enough, according to Stephanie Erick. She says "If the Government wants Māori health to be as good as or better than non-Māori health it will also need to come up with answers that really work for Māori, Pacific people and other more affected groups.

Hāpai Te Hauora supports changing how and where tobacco is sold. Stephanie Erick hopes that the Vaping Amendment Bill, which is now underway, will help the Government move to get tobacco out of shops; "A strategy that could work is helping dairies to totally switch their sales from tobacco to much less harmful vaping," says Stephanie Erick. "Rather than having shops offering both, let’s have fewer shops offering cigarettes. That way there’ll be fewer temptations for those who have quit or have never smoked and people who are managing heavy nicotine addictions aren’t left in the cold."

Stephanie Erick says plain packaging is just one positive example of policy that can tackle the ongoing smoking epidemic. "The more measures we can put in place, the more likely it is whanau will stop smoking or at least move to less harmful options," says Erick, "and hopefully, once vaping regulations are in place the Government can move onto supply reduction and really lay out the vision for a smoke-free New Zealand. Once we can look back at Covid-19 and tobacco, which still kills 5000 people in Aotearoa every year, we’ll all heave a sigh of relief."

Please note: A data briefing, ‘Standardised Packaging for Tobacco Products in New Zealand: Evidence of Policy Impact from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Policy Evaluation Project’, is available here: https://www.otago.ac.nz/wellington/departments/publichealth/research/otago735056.pdf

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