A Maori health leader and anti-smoking campaigner have today told politicians they should pass a law now to make selling cigarettes illegal by 2025.
The chief executive for Maori Public Health Lance Norman sounded a warning to the first combined meeting of the Health and Maori Affairs select committees that the goal of making New Zealand smoke free in seven years' time will not be achieved.
"We will not hit 2025 Smoke Free New Zealand,” Mr Norman said.
"The target is five per cent and we are nowhere near that. We are currently sitting at about 16 per cent for total population. But when you look at it by ethnicity, saying it's a train wreck for Maori and Pasifika would be an understatement," he said.
Currently 35 per cent of Maori smoke and 25 per cent of Pasifika.
"We're well behind the eight ball. We've got a lot of catchup to do and we need to get this under control,” Boyd Broughton of Action on Smoking said.
One of their suggestions is to ban the sale of cigarettes.
"You should pass legislation now to make it illegal to sell cigarettes by 2025. And you might have a phase out approach,” Mr Norman told the parliamentarians.
But not everyone is convinced by the ban suggestion.
“People should be able to smoke if they want to,” one man on a city street told 1 NEWS.
Another person said: “That's just going to make people do it secretly. Or it'll become criminalised which will make it worse.”
Other recommendations include raising the smoking age to 21, and better access to options like e-cigarettes.
The Government today wouldn’t be drawn into whether it'll fail its smoke free goal.
“Right now we're working with the Ministry of Health on an action plan to get us to reaching 2025. I am actually very committed to it,” said Jenny Salesa, Associate Health Minister.
The Government is also looking at whether the tobacco tax is working.
But the experts who fronted the politicians warn more needs to be done, and soon, to save lives.