Written by By Ally Reffet, CNN
New Zealand will become the first country in the world to try to put a cap on the number of cigarettes sold and to ban all cigarette advertising and sponsorship, according to a new government directive from June.
The New Zealand Council on Smoking and Health (NZCSH) said the plan was a success for it, despite some opposition, but no regulations are expected until 2020.
NZCSH chief executive Mike Daube said in a statement on Wednesday that it was essential that “decisions to end tobacco marketing be made nationally, with each local authority taking an individual lead and regulating in the manner that best protects public health.”
“Although the changes will not be binding until 2020, they are an important landmark in the continuing struggle to get the control of tobacco into every community across New Zealand,” Daube said.
The decision to publish a public consultation paper on the policy followed high-profile complaints from some industry representatives. Tobacco giant Philip Morris International recently wrote to New Zealand Health Minister Michael Woodhouse to criticize the decision to ban public advertising of cigarettes and to restrict vending machine display of tobacco products.
While a ban on vending machine displays was not originally planned, it has now been included.
There is particular concern in New Zealand over the burden being placed on women smokers, who are known to be at a higher risk of lung and cardiovascular disease than men.
In 2017, NZCSH released research suggesting women were four times more likely to smoke than men and that black women were twice as likely to smoke as white women.
Peter Cox, chief executive of the advocacy group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said the tobacco industry didn’t care about the health risks it was causing to women.
“But women being in the thick of the problem makes it easier to act,” he told CNN.
Cox described recent changes to tobacco packaging to make smoking look less attractive as a “political stop gap” and a more ethical option.
He said policy challenges such as controlling tobacco consumption and making tobacco ads less public were harder to overcome as regular lobbyists were not willing to budge on these issues.
The proposal to bar all tobacco sponsorship also goes further than previous moves by governments like Australia and the US, both of which have limits on tobacco marketing and sponsorship. Australia introduced a ban on tobacco advertising in 2009.
In New Zealand, daube said the NZCSH would keep monitoring the tobacco industry’s efforts to influence politicians, and would continue to “continue to lobby hard to see such a move brought about nationally.”
“I am confident New Zealand will be the first country in the world to have a blanket national smoking ban and restrict major tobacco industry advertising,” he said.
But Daube said it was unlikely the ban would be accompanied by stronger regulation around the sale of tobacco and had no involvement in the review of what the tobacco industry can and cannot advertise.
“(We) will be using feedback on this review to seek an additional ban on the display of tobacco products outside the stores which (we) believe should be the extent of any tobacco advertising.”
Daube also recommended supporting the courts’ decision against the Australian government in its bid to have modified e-cigarettes banned in retail stores.