New Zealand - Christchurch prepares for meeting with tobacco select committee..

April 19, 2010 - Canterbury Maori and health groups will argue for tobacco to be made illegal when a Government select committee visits Christchurch on May 14 - see map upper right-hand corner. (New Zealand’s Parliament has only one chamber - the House of Representatives and there is no upper house such as a senate. Select committees work on behalf of the House and report their conclusions to the House. The Māori Affairs Committee considers matters relating to Māori affairs.)

Submissions from Canterbury organisations call for tobacco to be banned from 2020.
They also want the price of a pack of cigarettes to increase to $20 within five years.

The Hornby Smokefree Project submission said Maori were disproportionately affected by tobacco. In 2007, about 20 percent of adults smoked compared with 40 per cent of Maori men and 50 percent of Maori women. The biggest cause of death for Maori men was lung cancer, and Maori were three times more likely to die from lung cancer than non-Maori, it said.

Smoking was also a key factor in explaining the higher rates of sudden infant deaths in Maori, as well as childhood diseases such as asthma and heart disease.

The Smokefree Canterbury submission said all tobacco sales should be phased out by 2020.

"We respectfully request that the committee also consider recommending that each major tobacco manufacturer and supplier apologise for the harm caused to New Zealand society as a direct result of their products," it said.

Rural Canterbury, Hurunui and Kaikoura primary health organisations said there should be an annual rise in tobacco taxation of 20 per cent – increasing the price for a pack of 20 cigarettes to $20 by 2015. They called for an immediate ban on tobacco retail displays and on smoking in cars carrying children. "Tobacco must not be considered as a legal consumer product, but as the most destructive drug to public health in New Zealand today," they said.

Council of Civil Liberties spokesman Michael Bott said people had a right to participate in unhealthy lifestyle choices. "It's unfortunate that people are thinking like this, that we have to legislate, but you can't legislate health," he said. "It's going to push it underground and criminalise people currently undertaking a legitimate activity."

Tobacco-related illness kills about 5000 New Zealanders a year.

Reference: Plea to make sale of tobacco illegal by REBECCA TODD, The, 4/13/2010.

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