Dame Aroha Reriti-Crofts and fellow members from the Ōtautahi Māori Women’s Welfare League do not want to wait another day.  They are calling for an end to tobacco sales in New Zealand and they want it to happen immediately.  

Their voices were heard loud and clear at the “Whakatakanga Tupeka Kore – Mission Tobacco Free” hui held at He Waka Tapu the day before the country went into lockdown last week.  The hui, organised by Smokefree Canterbury, attracted more than 50 attendees including tobacco control advocates, mental health workers, council representatives and local community members directly affected by tobacco use. 

Presenters shared and facilitated discussion on the Government’s Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan proposal released in April this year for public feedback.  The plan sets out bold measures to achieve the country’s goal of a Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025, including ‘making tobacco products less available’.  This means a drastic reduction in the number of stores able to sell tobacco products and would see the end of smoked tobacco product sales in dairies, petrol stations and supermarkets.  

Results from a recent survey undertaken by the Cancer Society Canterbury – West Coast were presented and highlighted the saturation of tobacco retailers across Canterbury, particularly in high deprivation neighbourhoods, and that tobacco products are currently more available than bread and milk.

Thirteen deaths a day in New Zealand are attributed to tobacco use.  “It’s killing our Whakapapa,” stated Teresa Butler, Stop Smoking Practitioner based at Te Puawaitanga ki Otautahi Trust.  Teresa introduced a video she helped create featuring local Cantabrians sharing their very raw and personal accounts of the harm caused to them and their whānau by tobacco and calling for an end to tobacco sales. 

Hui attendees also heard from experienced tobacco researcher, Dr Lindsay Robertson, who debunked claims from the tobacco industry that stopping cigarette sales in dairies would put an end to their businesses.  She shared studies from New Zealand, Australia and the US showing that only 12-14% of sales in dairies/local stores involved tobacco products – and only around 5% of those purchasing tobacco products went on to purchase other items in store.  

There was concern from the group that local small businesses are being brain-washed and lied to by the tobacco industry about how much they are dependent on tobacco sales for their survival.  In fact, Tara Aitcheson, who chose not to sell tobacco products when she took over a dairy in Sydenham, said she made her decision for business reasons; she simply didn’t see the economic viability in it.  Tara believes that small, family-owned businesses selling tobacco do not truly realise how little profit they make on tobacco products.

A key action or ‘next step’ proposed by attendees at the conclusion of the hui was to send a letter, signed by hui participants, to Minister Ayesha Verrall – to congratulate her on her commitment to address tobacco availability, express Canterbury’s full support for the proposed action plan and emphasise the urgency for immediate action to finally put an end to the deaths and harm caused by tobacco use.

"Whakatakanga Tupeka Kore – Mission Tobacco Free” hui leaders

Photo (from left to right):

  • Camel Gregan-Ford, CanBreathe
  • Teresa Butler, Te Puawaitanga ki Ōtautahi Trust & Ōtautahi' Māori Women’s Welfare League
  • Ann Bergman, Ōtautahi' Māori Women's Welfare League
  • Dame Aroha Rereti-Crofts, Ōtautahi Māori Women's Welfare League & Te Puawaitanga ki Ōtautahi Trust
  • Amanda Dodd, Cancer Society Canterbury - West Coast Division
  • Harata Franks, Community & Public Health & Ōtautahi' Māori Women’s Welfare League
  • James Tawa, Te Puawaitanga ki Ōtautahi Trust
  • Lisa Hesp, Pegasus Health (Charitable) Ltd & Smokefree Canterbury Chair
  • Cheryl Ford, Cancer Society Canterbury - West Coast Division


Notes to the editor/correspondence to:

Lisa Hesp, Chair Smokefree Canterbury lisa.hesp@pegasus.org.nz 

Amanda Dodd Deputy Manager Health Promotion- The Cancer Society Canterbury – West Coast Division. 03 379 5835 / 021 915 605.

Hui Partners: