Smokefree activist says a ban on cigarettes would be premature: 'You make criminals of people previously addicted'

Banning cigarettes in New Zealand would be a premature and unjust step for those already addicted, a smoke-free activist says after calls for the government to take that drastic move.

That’s in response to health experts who say banning cigarettes is the only way NZ will reach the smoke free by 2025 goal. Source: Breakfast

Health experts this week judged the government's goal of a smoke free country by 2025 as unrealistic, and only achievable by banning smoking.

Action for Smokefree Atearoa's Boyd Broughton said there are a number of steps that need to be taken before New Zealand as a country considers banning smoking. 

"There's probably a few things we need to do beforehand, and one of them is we need to discriminate against tobacco with legislation," Mr Broughton said.

"We need to make it unpalatable, we need to make it unaffordable, and we need to make sure that the nicotine levels inside it are lowered so that it's less addictive."

Mr Broughton said alternatives such as gums, patches, lozenges, and vapes need to become more attractive, affordable and more accessible to communities.

While agreeing the goal of a smoke free New Zealand by 2025 was not going to happen on existing trends, Mr Broughton said an abrupt ban on cigarettes was too drastic.

"The problem with banning something is that if it's legal and then one day it's banned you make criminals of people who were previously addicted to it and that's the issue that we face if we make it illegal immediately," Mr Broughton said.

"So there needs to be steps in place, build up the country's resilience and resistance."

Mr Broughton also highlighted the fact Maori are twice as high in smoking rates than the rest of New Zealand.

"The main reason is that they were unfairly targeted by the tobacco industry in the 1980s and 1970s, and they were saturated," he said.

"Even a recently as last decade ago there was still heavier marketing, heavier retail outlets of tobacco in those communities, those poor brown communities than there were say in Ponsonby."