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Tobacco Control Policy

This area of research can inform the development, implementation and evaluation of regulatory and other policies. The 2010 Maori Affairs Select Committee report on tobacco made recommendations for regulatory interventions that limit the exposure to, and appeal of tobacco.

Policy and regulatory research areas in which we work include:

  • Smokefree places – particularly for outdoors and vehicles
  • Restrictions on tobacco availability and supply
  • ‘Endgame solutions’ to the tobacco epidemic
  • Tobacco affordability, price and tax revenue use
    • This includes research about dedicated revenue for tobacco control and the potential differential impacts of prices on different populations in New Zealand

Associate Professor Research George Thomson leads this theme; other ASPIRE2025 researchers contributing to this theme include:

Recent and current student researchers include:

 MPH Marcus Gurtner  The extent of exposure of children to smoking in ‘private’ places 2015-16
MPH Leanne Toledo Evaluation of smokefree parks policy Completed 2012

Current projects

New Zealand arm of International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project (NZ-ITC project)

The NZ arm of the international ITC study is an HRC-funded project that will establish a cohort of New Zealand smokers and ex-smokers and interview them over several years in order to describe patterns of smoking-related behaviours, explore influences on smoking and quitting and determine the impact of tobacco control policies and other interventions. The study is a major enhancement to NZ tobacco control research and will help provide evidence to inform policy and strategy development to achieve Smokefree 2025. For more information view here.

Smokefree signage at New Zealand schools

This research used Google Street View to help evaluate smokefree signage at NZ schools. A letter has been published in the journal Australia & NZ Journal of Public Health. A presentation was made at the September 2015 NZ PHA Conference. For more information  view here.

Smokefree signage on New Zealand hospital campuses

This research used Google Street View to help evaluate smokefree signage at both a convenience sample and national random sample of hospitals. A letter has been published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. A presentation was made at the September 2015 NZ PHA Conference. For more information view here.

Smoking at a café in a smokefree park

An observational study (with “control” cafés) has been submitted to a journal (lead person is Nick Wilson).

Smokefree city options

This project will develop, inform and test effective policy options for denormalising smoking in central Wellington – ie, options towards a smokefree central Wellington. The project is at the stage of workshopping policy options, and a project report is due in March 2016. For more information view here

The power of exposure

This study investigated the presence and extent of environmental influences on alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking in CBD and suburban streets in Wellington. It was carried out by fourth year medical students at the University of Otago, Wellington under the supervision of ASPIRE2025 researchers, Nick Wilson and George Thomson. The project report and introductory video can be viewed here.

Past Projects

Unless otherwise stated, staff on the projects below are the University of Otago, Wellington.

Retail regulation

Funded by Cancer Society of NZ. Staff: Janet Hoek, Rhonwyn Vaudrey (both Marketing Department, University of Otago), Philip Gendall (Massey University), Richard Edwards, George Thomson. This project investigated NZ retailers’ experience of putting tobacco out of sight, the reasons they did so, and the reactions of their customers.

Other recent publications on the retail area include:

Daring to Dream

Funded by the Marsden Fund. Staff: Richard Edwards, Marie Russell, George Thomson, Nick Wilson, Heather Gifford (Whakauae Research for Māori Health and Development).
This project aimed to explore attitudes towards supply-side focused ‘endgame’ tobacco control approaches and how they can be best communicated with senior policymakers, journalists, health promotion and public health practitioners and the public using in-depth interviews and focus groups. Key findings include strong support for the vision of a tobacco free New Zealand and great interest in endgame tobacco control approaches.

Smokefree cars

Funded by the Cancer Society of NZ, National Office; Vimal Patel, George Thomson

This project in 2011 (a) Refined methods to measure the point prevalence of smoking and secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure in moving vehicles; and (b) compared these prevalences: (i) between two areas of contrasting socioeconomic status in Wellington City – Wainuiomata and Karori; (ii) over time – 1995 to 2011.

One finding was that smoking in vehicles with children was over ten times higher in Wainuiomata compared to Karori. A presentation from the project was given at the Oceania Tobacco Control Conference, Brisbane, in October 2011.

Research into the tobacco endgames

As well as the Daring to Dream project, we have been investigating the feasibility and support for endgame solutions to achieve a tobacco free Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Current and recent outputs include:

Observing smoking prevalence outdoors

Funded by the Health Research Council: The Smokefree Kids Policy Project. and the cancer Society. Staff for this project: Vimal Patel, Marie Russell, Gabrielle Jenkin, George Thomson:

In this 2011-2012 part of the project we aimed to: (i) Develop methods for establishing the prevalence of smoking in a variety of outdoor places (eg, streets, playgrounds); (ii) Trial the methods across different types of sites, different cities and different countries; and (iii) Explore the similarities and differences in smoking behaviours across the types of sites and different countries.

A seminar was presented on the project results at the University of Otago, Wellington, on September 2, 2011.  Available as a Powerpoint Show file (Smoking in outdoor spaces PPS) or a PDF (Smoking in outdoor spaces PDF).

Conference Presentation: George Thomson, Marie Russell, Gabrielle Jenkin, Vimal Patel, Nick Wilson. The presence of children in outdoor public spaces AHPA conference, Sydney, June 16-19, 2013

The article from the project is: Thomson G, Russell M, Jenkin G, Patel V, Wilson N. Informing outdoor smokefree policy: Methods for measuring the proportion of people smoking in outdoor public areas. Health & Place 2013;20:19-24.

Smokefree streets

Funded by the Cancer Society of NZ (Wellington Division); Vimal Patel, George Thomson, Heather Gifford (Whakauae Research for Māori Health and Development):

This 2011 project piloted research methods for investigating policies for smokefree shopping streets in the Wellington region, particularly in downtown areas. The work included a survey of businesses, and the development of methods for observing smokers and measuring corresponding fine particulate levels.

The articles from the project are:

Patel V, Thomson G, Wilson N. Attitudes of business people to proposed smokefree shopping streets. Nicotine Tob Res 2013;15:287-90.

Patel V, Thomson G, Wilson N. Smoking increases air pollution levels in city streets: Observational and fine particulate data. Health and Place 2012;12:1202–1205

The Whanganui District Bylaw

Funded by the Health Research Council: The Smokefree Kids Policy Project. Staff for project: Lynley Cvitanovic (Whakauae Research for Māori Health and Development), George Thomson.

This project investigated the reasons for, and process of, the Whanganui District adopting a smokefree parks and reserves bylaw in August 2010. A journal article is being submitted.

Smokefree schools

A book chapter has recently been accepted for publication. In it we discuss the international background for smoke free schools and wider smoke free environments, the general evidence regarding smoke free environment policies, and the evidence for smoke free schools in particular. Staff: Heather Gifford (Whakauae Research for Māori Health and Development) George Thomson.

  • Gifford H, Thomson G. Smoke free environments for children – the relationship between schools and wider smoke free environments (chapter 14). In Current Issues and Controversies in School and Community Health, Sport and Physical Education. Edited by J. O’Dea. Nova Science Publishers: New York. 2012. Chapter 14.

Smokefree vehicles app

Funded by the Asthma Foundation. Staff: Vimal Patel, George Thomson, Nick Wilson (UoO Wellington); Mariusz Nowostawski, Hamish Medlin (Department of Information Science, University of Otago, Dunedin)

Article: Patel V, Nowostawski M, Thomson G, Wilson N, Medlin H. Developing a smartphone “app” for public health research: The example of measuring observed smoking in vehicles. J Epidemiol Commun Health 2013;3;67:446–452.

Recent Submissions

• Thomson G. To the Community Wellbeing Committee of the Palmerston North City Council, on their smokefree outdoor places policy, July 1, 2013 –


• Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington. To the Local Government and Environment Select Committee on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill, August 2012

• Edwards R, Thomson G. To the Wellington City Council long term plan hearing May 30th 2012 (on smokefree outdoor policies)

Other recent policy-related publications and presentations

Peer reviewed journal articles

  • Edwards R, Wilson N. (2011). Smoking outdoors at pubs and bars: is it a problem? An air quality study. New Zealand Medical Journal.
  • Thomson G, Edwards R, Wilson N, Blakely T. (in press) What are the elements of the tobacco endgame? Tobacco Control. doi:10.1136/tc.2010.040881
  • Thomson G, Wilson N, Weerasekera D, Edwards R. (2011) Strong smoker interest in ‘setting example to children’ by quitting: National survey data. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 35(1), 81-84.
  • Wilson H, Thomson G. (2011) ‘Balancing acts’: The politics and processes of smokefree area policymaking in a small state. Health Policy, 101, 79–86
  • Hudson S, Thomson G. Policymakers and the example of smoking to children: A qualitative study. Tobacco Induced Diseases, 9, 1.
  • Parry R, Prior B, Sykes AJ, Tay J, Walsh B, Wright N, Pearce K, Richmond G, Robertson A, Roselan J, Shum P, Taylor G, Thachanamurthy P, Zheng T, Wilson N, Thomson G. (2011). Smokefree streets: A pilot study of methods to inform policy. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 13, 389-394.
  • Quinn C, Lewis S, Edwards R, McNeill A. (2011). Economic evaluation of the removal of point of sale tobacco promotional displays in Ireland. Tobacco Control, 20(2), 151.
  • McNeill A, Lewis S, Quinn C ,Mulcahy M, Clancy L, Hastings G, Edwards R. (2011).  Evaluation of the removal of point of sale tobacco promotional displays in Ireland. Tobacco Control, 20(2), 137.
  • Wilson N, Edwards R, Parry R. (2011). A persisting secondhand smoke hazard in urban public places: results from fine particulate (PM2.5) air sampling. New Zealand Medical Journal, 124(1330).
  • Rouch G, Thomson G, Wilson N, Hudson S, Edwards R, Gifford H, and Lanumata T. (2010). Public, private and personal: Qualitative research on policymakers’ opinions on smokefree interventions for children in ‘private’ spaces and activities. BMC Public Health, 10, 797.

Journal letters and editorials

  • Wilson N, Hoek J, Thomson G, Edwards R. (2011). Plain packaging for tobacco in New Zealand: local evidence and arguments. New Zealand Medical Journal, 124(1338):120-125.
  • Wilson N, Thomson G. (2013) Updating New Zealand’s national smokefree law to reduce anomalies and improve health protection. (Letter) NZ Med J 2013, 126 (1384) 1-3.
  • Wilson N, Thomson G, Edwards R. (2011). Good smokefree law compliance in rural pubs in New Zealand: results from fine particulate (PM2.5) air sampling. New Zealand Medical Journal, 124(1332) 89-94.
  • Blakely T, Thomson G, Wilson, N, Edwards R, Gifford H. (2010). The Māori Affairs Select Committee Inquiry and the road to a smokefree Aotearoa. New Zealand Medical Journal, 123(1326), 7-18.
  • Wilson N, Edwards R, Thomson G, Weerasekera D, Talemaitoga A. (2010). High support for a tobacco endgame by Pacific peoples who smoke: national survey data. New Zealand Medical Journal, 123(1316), 131-134.
  • Wilson N, Thomson G, Blakely T, Edwards R. (2010). A new opportunity to eliminate policy incoherence in tobacco control in New Zealand. New Zealand Medical Journal, 123(1311), 89-92.
  • Thomson G, Wilson N, Edwards R. (2010). Kiwi support for the end of tobacco sales: New Zealand governments lag behind public support for advanced tobacco control policies. New Zealand Medical Journal, 123(1308), 106-111.


APACT 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Tobacco or Health, 18-21 August, 2013, Japan.

Oral Presentations:

Second-hand smoke exposure of children in cars in New Zealand: Repeated national survey data Richard Edwards, Ben Healey, Janet Hoek, Nick Wilson, George Thomson, Steve Taylor

Daring to dream: Policy-maker and practitioner views of an ‘endgame’ solution to tobacco smoking at a country level Richard Edwards, Nick Wilson, George Thomson, Marie Russell, Jo Peace, Heather Gifford

An Evaluation of the Removal of Tobacco Retail Displays in New Zealand Gregor Whyte, Philip Gendall and Janet Hoek

New Zealand Smokers’ and Non-Smokers’ Support for End-Game Retail Policies Gregor Whyte, Philip Gendall and Janet Hoek


Secondhand smoke exposure in cars and homes is associated with susceptibility to smoking in 14-15 year old children: Repeated national survey data Richard Edwards, Ben Healey, George Thomson , Nick Wilson , Janet Hoek , Steve Taylor

Perceptions and Misperceptions of a Smokefree Goal: Challenges for Communications Janet Hoek, Philip Gendall and Gregor Whyte

What messages do young adult smokers believe will be effective in cessation advertising? Ninya Maubach, Janet Hoek, Heather Gifford, Stephanie Erick, Richard Edwards and Rhiannon Newcombe

Patterns of Posting Behaviour in an Online Cessation Community Benjamin Healey, Janet Hoek and Richard Edwards

Monitoring political discourse around end-game goals. Using automated textual analysis to enable an on-going overview for tobacco control Benjamin Healey, Richard Edwards, Janet Hoek and George Thomson

Effective Nationwide Networking and Social Movement in Aotearoa New Zealand Prudence Stone, Stephanie Erick, Skye Kimura – poster to be added soon

Smoking Prevalence and Behaviours amongst a Longitudinal Cohort of Pacific Islands Fathers in New Zealand El-Shadan Tautolo

What is Needed to Achieve New Zealand’s Smokefree Nation Goal: Results from a Forecasting Model Takayoshi Ikeda, Linda Cobiac, Nhung Nghiem, Kristie Carter, Nick Wilson, Tony Blakely – University of Otago BODE3

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