Skip to content

Article | Support for a tobacco endgame and increased regulation of the tobacco industry among New Zealand smokers: results from a National Survey

Aim: To examine the prevalence of smoker support for a ban on cigarette sales in 10 years time and increased regulation of the tobacco industry and to investigate the independent associations of support for these measures.

Methods: The authors surveyed opinions among adult smokers in two survey waves (N=1376 and N=923) from the New Zealand arm of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Survey during 2007-2009. The authors report prevalence of support stratified by age, gender and ethnicity. The authors carried out multivariate analyses to identify significant associations among potential determinants (demographics, socioeconomic status, mental health and smoking-related beliefs and behaviours) of support.

Results: Most New Zealand smokers supported greater regulation of the tobacco industry (65%) and more government action on tobacco (59%). Around half (46%) supported banning sales of cigarettes in 10 years time, provided effective nicotine substitutes were available. In a fully adjusted model, significant associations with support for greater tobacco company regulation included Māori ethnicity, experience of financial stress and greater awareness about the harms of smoking. Significant associations with support for a ban on tobacco sales in 10 years time included increasing area-based deprivation level, increasing intention to quit and greater concern about the health effects of smoking.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that most smokers will support stronger government action to control the tobacco industry and that many support radical ‘endgame’ approaches. Greater support among Māori, more deprived and possibly Pacific smokers, is an important finding, which could inform the design and implementation of new policies given the very high smoking prevalence among these groups and hence high priority for targeted tobacco control interventions. Perceived difficulties in gaining public support should not impede the introduction of rigorous tobacco control measures needed to achieve a tobacco-free New Zealand.

Citation: Edwards, R., Wilson, N., Peace, J., Weerasekera, D., Thomson, G.W., & Gifford, H. (2012). Support for a tobacco endgame and increased regulation of the tobacco industry among New Zealand smokers: results from a National Survey. Tobacco Control, online first (25 April), doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2011-050324.

Media Release | Tuesday 22 May 2012

Smokers support increased regulation of tobacco industry

Just published research has found strong support from New Zealand smokers for much greater regulation of the tobacco industry.

The lead author of the study, Professor Richard Edwards of the ASPIRE 2025 research collaboration, says the results clearly indicate the Government could and should act with much greater boldness in pursuing its ‘Smokefree New Zealand 2025’ goal.

The public health researchers from the University of Otago, Wellington found that 65% of a sample of over 1300 smokers agreed with the statement ‘tobacco companies should be more tightly regulated’.

This support was even higher at 70% for Maori smokers and 74% for Pacific smokers. Those smokers under financial stress were also more likely to agree to the statement.

There was also strong majority agreement (59% agree) that the government should do more to tackle the harm done by smoking, with higher percentages agreeing amongst Māori (66%) and Pacific (78%) smokers.

A sizeable proportion of smokers also supported radical endgame plans for tobacco. That is, 46% supported the setting of a date to ban commercial tobacco in ten years ‘if effective nicotine substitutes became available’ among 921 smokers asked this question. A majority of Pacific smokers (62%) supported this and those smokers living in deprived (poorer) areas were much more likely to agree with the statement.

Professor Edwards says significant country wide debate on the role of the tobacco industry as the ultimate cause of the tobacco epidemic has been generated through the Māori Affairs Select Committee hearings and the Committee’s subsequent report and positive Government response. He says that, considering the surveys were done between 2007 and 2009 before the idea of ending tobacco use was publically discussed in New Zealand, it is likely that support could be even greater now.

“These findings are consistent with international research showing that the public and smokers want clear leadership and action by governments to stop the tobacco epidemic and realise the 2025 smoke-free goal,” says co-author Dr Heather Gifford from Whakauae Research Services.

She says that previous New Zealand research showed a similar level of support for other measures such as plain packaging of tobacco products and a ban on smoking in cars.

“All these surveys demonstrate that most people now support a ban on smoking in cars where children are present. Indeed this same study showed 96% support by smokers”.

Dr Gifford, who works in the area of tobacco control to benefit Māori health, added that: “we are seeing, clear leadership from the Associate Minister of Health in the regulatory areas of smoking in cars and plain packs. But such leadership needs to expand to across the political spectrum and include iwi and community wide leadership supporting such courageous moves”.

The research was funded by the Health Research Council and was published in the international peer-reviewed journal “Tobacco Control”.

A full PDF can be emailed on request (Richard.Edwards@otago.ac.nz).

TVNZ Breakfast | 24 May 2012

Professor Richard Edwards is interviewed by Rawdon Christie, answering the question ‘Do tobacco companies need tighter regulation?’