I am delighted that one of my first public acts on returning to New Zealand from my role in the United Nations Development Programme is to become patron of ASH NZ – Action for Smoke-free 2025.
I have been a staunch supporter of tobacco control throughout my political career, and I am proud of the world-leading work New Zealand has done towards eliminating tobacco-induced harm.
One of my proudest achievements as a politician was sponsoring New Zealand’s pioneering Smoke-free Environments Act when I was health minister nearly 30 years ago.
Ironically, the working men and women that relied on her to be their champion didn’t have a friend in her.
This Wednesday is World No-Tobacco Day and its theme is “tobacco and development”. Alas, the developmental impact of tobacco is evident globally and in New Zealand. As UNDP Administrator, I could see how developing country populations were being targeted by the tobacco industry. Tobacco is a growing health crisis in those countries, including for women. In New Zealand, we know where tobacco addiction leads. A century after commercial tobacco first came to New Zealand, one in four Maori women are dying from tobacco-related causes.
Another tragic feature of the production of tobacco in developing countries is the use of children in tobacco growing and harvesting, and the desperate and enduring poverty of most tobacco farmers and their families.
While at the UN, I also saw the impact which New Zealand’s leadership on tobacco continues to have on a global scale. In 2003, New Zealand was one of three nations with comprehensive smoke-free laws. We had the courage to be a pioneer. Now, more than 100 nations have such laws.
New Zealand has a world leading and ambitious goal to become smoke-free by 2025. Achieving this goal will save thousands of Kiwi lives, and influence many more to be saved by showing leadership to other nations fighting the tobacco industry.
I guess you can’t rely on Helen to support the decriminalising of Marijuana either. But all of this is pretty much irrelevant. Delivery of addictive substances is moving to other methods. Burning up some leaf matter will become a quaint era in history.
Whenever you try to ban something, the market will find a way.
Humans don’t like being told what to do and being forced by laws made by egotistical empire builders.