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Politics

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Smokefree goal stubbed out

Last updated 14:49 10/04/2013

SIOBHAN DOWNES

The Government's goal of a smokefree New Zealand by 2025 may have been stubbed out, with a new survey reporting no decrease in youth smoking over the past year.

The latest Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) survey showed the number of year 10 pupils smoking each day was 4.1 per cent in 2012, the same as the 2011 results.

It was the first time in the survey's 14-year history that youth smoking rates had not dropped.

Ash said Government spending cuts in tobacco control and inadequate tax increases were hampering the bid to reduce smoking rates.

The Health Promotion Agency, which carried out the Government's anti-tobacco media campaigns, had received a budget cut from $8.2 million in 2008 to $5.1m last year.

"We're seeing the stark reality that youth smoking rates do need strong messages behind them to keep smoking rates falling," Ash director Ben Youdan said.

One such campaign, Smoking Not Our Future, was launched in 2006 and featured young celebrities talking negatively about smoking.

A survey done as part of an evaluation of the campaign in 2008 showed 74 per cent of the teenage respondents agreed the ads made smoking seem "less cool".

"A big concern is that with reduced mass media campaigns, goals like reducing youth smoking and larger targets, including the Government's goal of a smokefree New Zealand by 2025, becomes that much more difficult," Youdan said.

The biggest drops in youth smoking were in 2000 and 2010, when the government introduced significant tobacco tax increases.

In February, the Government confirmed plans to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products but would wait for legal action over similar moves in Australia to be completed.

Results of an international study released last year showed plain packaging reduced the appeal of smoking for youth and young adults. 

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- The Dominion Post

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