Cancer Information Helpline Call 0800 226 237 | Email an Information nurse | Fundraising & Donor Care Helpline Call 0800 467 345

Cancer Society urges bold action to reach Smokefree 2025

Today the Cancer Society of New Zealand joined a delegation led by Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) to present Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall an open letter of support for her Smokefree 2025 Action Plan.

Cancer Society CEO Lucy Elwood, alongside several members of HCA, handed over the 1.2 metre letter signed by more than 110 organisations and 650 individuals.

The letter urges Government to adopt the full Action Plan including measures that will reduce nicotine in smoked tobacco products, making them less addictive, and limit the number of retailers who can sell tobacco.

Lucy Elwood says: “Smoking is the biggest cause of cancer in New Zealand. We urge the Government to seize this once in a generation opportunity and take bold and brave measures. We are advocating along with every individual and group who signed this open letter for the whole Action Plan.”

Cancer Society Medical Director, Dr Kate Gregory adds: “Smoking related cancers have a devastating impact on individuals and their whānau. Tobacco is the most dangerous consumer product in history, responsible for the deaths of 13 New Zealanders each day.”

“Cancer causing substances are grouped by seriousness and tobacco is in the same category as asbestos and lead based paint - with tobacco being the most deadly in the group, killing one in three people who smoke it regularly. Yet tobacco is sold alongside milk and bread throughout Aotearoa.”

The Cancer Society calls for the Government to adopt its Action Plan as outlined in April 2021 which contains world leading, evidence-based measures.

“To reach New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 goal, we need to implement these measures to make it easier for people to stop smoking and also help ensure the next generation never starts. Only decisive action will turn the tide on the biggest cause of cancer death in Aotearoa,” ends Lucy Elwood.


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

Further Info:

About the Cancer Society of New Zealand
The Cancer Society of New Zealand is the country's leading organisation dedicated to reducing the incidence of cancer and ensuring the best cancer care for New Zealanders. We are committed to working with communities and decision makers by providing leadership and advocacy in cancer control, with core services in information and support, research and health promotion. 


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)