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Kerre Woodham: Were there other ways to bring the smoking stats down?

Author
Kerre Woodham,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Nov 2023, 1:50PM
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Kerre Woodham: Were there other ways to bring the smoking stats down?

Author
Kerre Woodham,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Nov 2023, 1:50PM

Now the new Government has officially signed in this morning, and as Christopher Luxon said on Friday, he and his coalition Government cannot wait to get stuck in.

The RMA reforms will be rolled back before Christmas, Three Waters gone, the ute tax is expected to be gone as well, and in a controversial move, the Government will not proceed with Labour's planned legislation that would restrict the number of retailers allowed to sell cigarettes.

That would cut the amount of nicotine allowed in tobacco and ban those born after 2008 from buying fags. Remember that one? It was quite a thing at the time.

As you can imagine, there's been an outcry. Former Health Minister Ayesha Verrall says the Government aims to fund its tax cuts through enabling more children to start smoking. It is, she said, disgusting.

Incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says while they were against some of the legislation Labour had planned, it was ACT and NZ First, who were vehemently against the proposed legislation. They wanted it gone and it was part of the coalition agreement.

And he’s right, smoking has been decreasing over the years under successive Governments using different tools without the need for the sinking lid policy and restricting the number of retailers allowed to sell cigarettes.

Between 2010 and 2018, the amount of tobacco smoked per person decreased by 39 percent. Across just about every metric smoking has come down and it's come down dramatically since the 1980s.

He's also right that banning cigarettes outright or making them so restricted would just give the gangs another income stream. It would also make it more desirable for young people to take up the habit - forbidden fruit being the most tempting.

Also, people don't have to smoke. Nobody does. You know, if you want to start smoking, that is a choice. You've got all the facts in front of you, you've got all the health risks that are proved beyond a doubt in front of you.

If you choose to buy an overpriced packet of cigarettes then that's on you. For addicts, it's a bit different I do grant you. But if you decide as a young person, you know what I'm going to take a significant sum of money out of my wallet and buy myself a pack of cigarettes to basically smoke down to ash and have nothing left for it, that's on you.

And I guess that's where ACT was coming from. If you want to go to hell in your own way, fill your boots like that fag. And the Government will tax the heck out of you to pay for that privilege, to pay for your health costs.

So, Oh my God, he's killing children, that seems to be the narrative. Oh, this Government's only been in well, it isn’t even formally signed in and children will die as a result. Underprivileged people will die as a result. Well no. Smoking has been decreasing since the 1980s.

It has been declining dramatically across all metrics. It is still a personal choice. People don't have to smoke if they don't want to.

There's some weird ads on the radio about it being a post-colonial construct and you know it's not our fault that we're smoking, cause the colonials arrived and made us, but we don't have to. Yeah, the key point in that is you don't have to. It's not like you need water. You have to pay for water because you need it. You don't have to take up smoking.

And successive Governments have used successive tools to bring the rate of smoking down. As Christopher Luxon said to Mike this morning, there have been numerous different ways- this doesn't have to be the only way.

Perhaps people are still wedded to the idea that the past Labour Government’s way, was the way the truth and the light. There is no other Government other than Labour. It is the one true source of fact and truth and legislation. 

Uncouple that idea from your brain. There are other ways of doing things, different ways to get a good result. Theirs is not the way the truth and the light. And the sooner we remember that, the better.

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