Kerre McIvor: The first smokefree generation?

Kerre McIvor,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 Dec 2021, 1:12pm
(Photo / RNZ)
(Photo / RNZ)

Kerre McIvor: The first smokefree generation?

Kerre McIvor,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 Dec 2021, 1:12pm

Well, piece of news yesterday, people under 14 won't be able to buy cigarettes. And I thought when I saw the headline well what's new, they can't now anyway.  

People 14 and under will never, ever, ever be able to buy cigarettes in their lifetime. The ban will increase as they age. Very, very interesting. Successive governments have tried to target smoking. I think the Clark government was the most vehement in trying to get the number of smokers down, but Governments understand that smoking is not good for its population.  

Here are the stats:  

464,000 New Zealand adults still smoke daily.  

25 to 34 year olds have the highest smoking rate.  

Māori women have the highest smoking rate. 32% of the population of Māori woman smoke. Māori men it’s 25%.  

Smokers are more likely to have poor mental health than nonsmokers.  

Smokers are more likely to binge drink.  

The average age of starting smoking is 14.8 years old.   

And adults living in the most socio economically deprived areas are four and a half times as likely to be current smokers as adults in the least deprived areas.  

So, the richer you are, the less likely you are to smoke.  

The better off you are, the better educated you are, the less likely you are to smoke.  

The good news is that 1,041,000 people have given up smoking. 65% of New Zealanders have never smoked regularly, and that is a big turnaround from even 20 years ago.  

And now the government wants to bring it down even further, and do so in quite a radical fashion.  

It intends to create the first smoke free generation with a lifetime tobacco ban; noble ambitions.  

And undoubtedly with the wellbeing of Kiwis at heart. But I am a wee bit conflicted on this.  

I mean, I was never a huge smoker. I smoked probably for 10 years.  

Starting with the Sobranies, the cocktail cigarettes, because I thought that made me look sophisticated. And then the Dunhills. And then phased out to 5 rollies a day that my old producer Jimmy used to roll for me and I'd have one an hour when I was on talk back at nights, and then one day I went to take a puff and just felt so sick like the first time you've ever smoked a cigarette in your life when you're 12. Felt so ill and even the thought of it now still makes me ill. It was like aversion therapy; except I hadn't heard of aversion therapy.  

So, I guarantee there would be very few smokers who would want their children or grandchildren to take up the habit. Even if you're a 2 pack a dayer do you really want your children doing the same? It's expensive, hideously expensive, and it is damaging to your health.  

On the other hand, once something’s forbidden, it's all the more exciting and I hate the idea that the gangs will be able to mine another lucrative vein of income. Cigs are ideal to illegally import, smuggle and move around the country. And we're also pretty handy at growing tobacco here in this country too. So, it gives the gang something else to sell.  

There's also the argument that people are entitled to go to hell by their own route. What do we do next? You know when you have free will, you can exercise it for good or bad. If the government removes smoking, there's still plenty of other health issues they could look at.  

Will we only allow people an allocation? It'll come to your door of the health department's recommended alcohol allowance.  

It's it. It's all you're allowed. It's given out by the state.  

Do we have scales at the door of a bakery? And only allow those were the BMI under 26 into the shop to buy the pies.  

I would certainly be healthier if I had somebody telling me what I could eat, limiting my drink, compelling me to exercise them, prohibiting me from smoking and drug taking.  

Would I be happier? I don't think so. What about you?  

I think it's bold. I think it could work.  

The vast majority of people, if you've never tried something, if it's not available to them, if it's not around, are they going to be interested in doing it?  

And given that even the most enthusiastic smoker probably doesn't want the next generation to pick up that habit, there's not going to be a lot of you don't know what you're missing out on.