Research led by the University of Otago, Wellington shows that senior officials, health practitioners, decision-makers and opinion-leaders support bold new ways of thinking being explored to achieve a tobacco-free New Zealand.
The research follows a commitment this year by the Government to make NZ tobacco free by 2025, and has been published in the international journal BMC Public Health.
In the study, ‘Daring to Dream’, the researchers carried out in-depth interviews with 19 senior officials from the Ministry of Health and Treasury, along with senior journalists and public health doctors to explore their attitudes to a tobacco-free NZ, and five proposed ways to achieve it.
The interviewees strongly endorsed an ‘endgame’ tobacco-free (Tupeka Kore) vision in which the next generation is protected from tobacco addiction. They also responded positively to many of the proposals, though views varied about the most effective approach to making NZ tobacco free by 2025.
The five proposals focused on interventions and regulation to slowly restrict the supply of tobacco products, and targeting the tobacco industry.
One of the measures discussed was a regular decrease in the importing and supply of tobacco, reducing it to virtually nil over the next 10-15 years. Other measures include establishing a stand-alone autonomous Nicotine Authority to regulate the nicotine and tobacco market; and a not-for-profit Tobacco Control Agency to control the supply and distribution of tobacco products, with the aim of phasing them out altogether.
A key finding of the study was the way that tobacco is portrayed and viewed by policy-makers, media and the public, as a ‘risky but legal commodity’ is acting as a major barrier to more rigorous action.
Lead researcher from the ASPIRE 2025 research collaboration, Professor Richard Edwards says this limited and static view of tobacco needs to change.
“Once tobacco is seen for what it truly is, a highly addictive and toxic product which greatly harms thousands of children and adults, then we may get some real action to achieve the Tupeka Kore vision, and ensure that children are protected from becoming the next generation of victims.”
Co-author, Dr Heather Gifford from Whanganui-based Whakauae Research, says this study shows that there is support amongst key policy-makers and journalists for control of tobacco supply as a policy option, but further research and public debate are needed to identify the best and most practicable approach to achieve a Tupeka Kore, or tobacco-free Aotearoa by 2025.