Despite New Zealand launching Smokefree 2025 in 2011, smoking rates among Maori and Pacific people remain stubbornly high. Addressing them with urgency must now be a priority in the Government’s imminent Smokefree 2025 Action Plan, says the Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
AVCA’s comments following the Parliamentary Library publishing a research brief titled ‘Progress towards a Smokefree Aotearoa 2025’.
The research notes the Ministry of Health initially formed two interim targets for 2018 which were to have overall daily smoking prevalence down to 10%, and Maori and Pacific rates halved from their 2011 levels.
However, a 2019 Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) report confirms that while New Zealand’s overall smoking rate fell comfortably, the 2018 interim targets for Maori and Pacific people were missed by a mile.
The general adult population’s smoking rate fell from 16.3% in 2011/12 to 13.1% in the 2017/18 – still short of the 10% interim target; the Māori smoking rate fell from 37.7% in to 31.2% – well short of the 18.9% target; and the Pacific smoking rate fell from 22.6% to 20.0% – again well short of the 11.3% target.
Nancy Loucas, co-director of AVCA, says the research brief is a timely reminder to new Associate Health Minster, Dr Ayesha Verrall, that despite a range of initiatives funded and legislated for by successive governments, many New Zealanders remain at considerable risk when it comes to tobacco harm.
“Alarmingly, there has been little change in smoking prevalence among Pacific adults. Maori smoking rates have fallen but with nearly one in three still smoking, Maori have the highest rate among all ethnicities. What’s more, adults living in the most socio-economically deprived areas are 3.6 times more likely to be current smokers. Sadly, this research confirms there is still so much more work to do,” says Ms Loucas.
She says despite the media demonisation of vaping in recent years, the Parliamentary Library’s brief is good reminder that the Ministry of Health views vaping as a contributor to the country’s 2025 smokefree goal, noting that this year’s legislation to regulate vaping supports smokers to switch to these less harmful products.
“The research brief does well to reinforce that vaping is increasingly common among Kiwi smokers and those who have quit smoking. What’s more, it makes it abundantly clear that any concerns that young people who would never have considered smoking may be taking up vaping appear to be unfounded.”
She says while it’s clear that vaping has helped so many Kiwis quit tobacco, Maori and Pacific people sadly remain decades off becoming smokefree unless substantial interventions and initiatives are taken soon.
“AVCA looks forward to the Government’s draft Smokefree 2025 Action Plan, due to be released for public consultation in 2021. We are hoping it will recommend that vaping, as an effective smoking cessation tool, is made more accessible to those communities most at risk from tobacco,” says Nancy Loucas.
AVCA was formed in 2016 by vapers across New Zealand wanting their voices heard in local and central government. All members are former smokers who promote vaping to help smokers quit – a much less harmful alternative to combustible tobacco products. AVCA does not have any affiliation or vested interest in industry – tobacco, pharmaceutical and/or the local vaping manufacturing or retail sectors.