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Cancer Society applauds courageous Smokefree Action Plan

The Cancer Society of New Zealand applauds the Smokefree Action Plan released today at Parliament praising Government and in particular Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall for championing the strong, comprehensive measures outlined in the plan.

Smoking is the biggest cause of cancer and preventable deaths in New Zealand. It is estimated that tobacco kills about 13 New Zealanders every day.

The Smokefree 2025 Action Plan includes lowering the level of nicotine in cigarettes; reducing availability of tobacco products; making Māori leadership and decision-making a priority including the creation of a Māori task force led by Dame Tariana Turia and Hone Harawira; and establishing a date next year when people aged under 14 will never be able to legally purchase tobacco.

Cancer Society Medical Director, Dr Kate Gregory says: “These measures are evidence-based and world leading and will significantly reduce smoking rates. We have known for more than 70 years that tobacco causes lung cancer and we see first-hand the devastating impact this dangerous product has on individuals and their whānau. I echo Minister Verrall’s comment ‘there is never an ok age to start smoking’.”

Cancer Society CEO Lucy Elwood adds: “Thanks to Minister Verrall’s courage, drive, and commitment, we have a plan that includes a robust set of measures to reduce smoking and achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025. It is also great to see a focus on health promotion and community mobilisation in order to raise awareness and educate. We have waited 10 years for this strong and bold action plan, ever since the Māori Affairs Select Committee made multiple recommendations to reduce the impacts of smoking in Aotearoa in 2010.”

The plan includes commitments to greatly reduce the number of retailers selling tobacco and to hold the tobacco industry more accountable. 

“It is fantastic Government is committed to a significant reduction in tobacco retailers, especially in lower income communities which should not be inundated with tobacco retailers. We are looking forward to seeing comprehensive, legislation in the new year.”

“This is a great day for Aotearoa New Zealand. We urged the government to be bold and brave and they did not disappoint. We can now look forward to a Smokefree future and a Smokefree generation for our tamariki. This is a ground-breaking plan that will work to end our relationship with big tobacco and allows us to turn the tide on the biggest cause of cancer death in Aotearoa,” says Lucy Elwood.

New legislation to implement the Smokefree Action Plan will be introduced in 2022, therefore the Cancer Society will be encouraging submissions from the public when they open in new year.


Cancer Society Chief Executive Lucy Elwood and Medical Director Dr Kate Gregory are available for comments. To schedule an interview, please contact:

Susan Barker
Communications Manager, Cancer Society of New Zealand
027 882 4930


Background information

Reducing availability

  • A phased approach will enable the 6000-8000 current outlets time to transition out of selling tobacco so that by 2025 tobacco can only be sold by a few hundred licensed tobacco retailers nationally.
  • We support controlling the location and density of retailers to ensure they are not concentrated in low socio-economic areas or near schools. As there are nearly four times more retailers selling tobacco currently in low socio-economic areas, we want to see fewer tobacco retailers in these communities.
  • Significantly reducing the number of places selling tobacco will prevent young people from starting to smoke, support people to quit, and greatly accelerate reaching New Zealand's Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal. 

Appeal and addictiveness

  • The tobacco industry designs cigarettes to be highly addictive due to their high nicotine content and makes them very appealing by using additives and flavours.
  • Cancer Society strongly supports prohibiting flavours and additives and reducing nicotine content so that cigarettes are non-addictive.
  • There is really strong support (73%) from people who smoke (72%)  and recent quitters (78%) for reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes and tobacco. (ITC report Awareness and support for New Zealand's Smokefree 2025 goal and key measures to achieve it. June 2020)