In 2011, the NZ government set a ground-breaking goal; to make this country smokefree by 2025. This would ensure a tobacco-free environment for our children to grow up in, a huge reduction in health risks and many other benefits. Now we’re three years down the track, how are we doing? TEARAWAY Maverick THOMAS STEVENSON reports.

If you were present at Polyfest back in March, you may have seen fellow Mavericks Jasper Jay and George Vea pointing their camera around. They weren’t specifically interested in the performances, amazing though they were. No, they were searching for volunteers to answer a few questions on a big topic for Kiwis: Smokefree 2025. Here’s what the boys learned from the great people they talked to.

We’re very lucky to live in a place where education is so highly valued. In this case, health education. Kiwi schools are good at educating us on the risks associated with smoking (among other things). The result is that children and teens are becoming more and more aware that smoking doesn’t do much good for their bodies. This is true. I’ll spare you the stats this time; it’s enough to know that tobacco use can increase chances of premature death and lead to heart and lung disease, blindness, skin problems, hearing loss, stomach cancer… The list is long and any one of these conditions could ruin your life.

Staying alive should be reason enough for most people to avoid smoking, but there are other disadvantages as well. Somebody who’s a pack-a-day smoker will spend around $20 a day just on cigarettes. That is no small amount, especially if they happen to be unemployed or are on a tight budget at university. If they were to quit, they could save $500 in just 25 days.

It is reassuring to see that Kiwi teens know the risks and have formed some strong opinions about smoking. The consensus at Polyfest was that nobody should smoke and it’s hardly a cool activity any more. Festival-goers said they wouldn’t date a smoker and would think twice if the people they looked up to started smoking.

“The daily smoking rate for Year 10 students fell to 3.2% in 2013, compared to 15.6% in 1999.”

 

But how high are hopes for Smokefree 2025? How likely is it that our Government will be successful in reaching its goal? This is where the negative responses started coming. Indeed, 14 years doesn’t seem like enough time to stamp smoking out altogether. This is where the finer details need to be considered, because the actual goal is not to ban smoking, but to make cigarettes  unattractive and difficult to sell and supply. This will mean that we don’t have to put up with cigarette smoke; we can live smokefree lives.

Like it or not, some people aren’t seeing the need to quit yet. The info page over at www.smokefree.org.nz says “smoking prevalence across all populations will be less than 5%. The goal is not a ban on smoking.” Rather, the plan is to make it as hard as possible to sell and buy smokes in NZ, part of which is the proposed change to plain packaging.

Right now, the biggest problem for teens is peer pressure. While our generation is not too keen on smoking, many of us have relatives or friends who smoke. Some of them may be in the process of quitting, which will do them good, but some encourage younger family members to take up the habit. It is important to stay motivated and focus on what is good for you, even when those around you might not be following the same road.

So where are we at? Will health issues caused by smoking be a thing of the past in future Aotearoa? So far it’s looking good for us. In recent years, tobacco control work has been successful in ensuring most NZ youth remain smokefree, with the daily smoking rate for Year 10 students falling to 3.2% in 2013, compared to 15.6% in 1999. The Government’s 2025 goal is being put into practice effectively. Even though it may not seem like much has changed so far, in just three years some important steps have been made.

Yes, there are still too many cigarettes being smoked, but probably not for much longer. Smoking is not our future.

• Tobacco control interventions have been successful in ensuring New Zealand youth remain smokefree, with the current rate for regular smokers at 8% for 15 to 17-year-olds.   Furthermore, daily smoking rate for Year 10 students has fallen to 3.2% in 2013, compared to 15.6% in 1999.
• However, current smoking rates for young adults have remained high – 2011/12 – 27.4%; 2012/13 – 23.7%.

 

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