History of Tobacco Control

A look at smoking and tobacco control from the 18th Century to the present day.

People have used tobacco for centuries. For most of that time they didn’t know it was so harmful. This tool provides a history of tobacco use and our responses to promoting a Smokefree Aotearoa New Zealand by 2025.

Tupeka kore Aotearoa

Māori culture was one of just a few around the world that did not traditionally use any intoxicants, such as alcohol, tobacco or drugs. So, prior to the arrival of Captain Cook, there was no tobacco in Aotearoa, and tangata whenua were completely tupeka kore (smokefree).

Read on …

  1. Tobacco was introduced to New Zealand by Captain Cook and his crew as a standard trading tool.

    By early 1840s smoking was universal among Māori but alongside this widespread use, by the late 1800s/early 1900s there was a strong opposition by Māori leaders to the use of tobacco. The Māori Councils Act 1900 gave Māori Councils legal grounds to prohibit use of smoking by children and the power to fine anyone who supplied it. However, during this period there were many other issues being addressed that took priority and this power wasn’t fully realised.

  2. The overall national smoking rates in New Zealand were very low. But this changed during WWI when soldiers were given free cigarettes. So by the end of WWII, three-quarters of men and one-quarter of women smoked.1

    The mass production of cigarettes began increasing the accessibility of smoking.

    1 Health Promotion Agency. History of tobacco control in New Zealand. Retrieved 2 August 2015

  3. Medical professionals noticed an increase in lung cancer – previously an uncommon disease.

    By the 1950s, smoking was identified as the leading cause of lung cancer and the first US Surgeon-General’s Report (1957) linked smoking to lung cancer. Although sadly, smoking was already entrenched in Māori communities by then.

    The first public health posters linking cancer with smoking were produced.

    Tobacco consumption (by weight) per New Zealand adult peaked in 1953.

  4. Cigarette advertising on television and radio was stopped in 1963 in response to recommendations from the New Zealand Medical Association.

    In 1973 the tobacco industry agreed not to advertise on billboards and in cinemas.

    First health warning were displayed on cigarette packets (1974).

    US Surgeon-General’s Report (1964) expanded on the impact of smoking on health by linking it with heart disease, other kinds of cancer, and many other health problems.

    Tobacco was defined as a toxic substance in the new Toxic Substances Act (1979).

  5. World cancer rates due to smoking continued to increase with Māori reported as having the highest rates of lung cancer in the world (1984).

    In 1984, New Zealand’s first tobacco control programme began. Smokefree policies were implemented including taxation measures, health education, support to quit, health warnings, smokefree environments, regulating the tar in cigarettes, and a ban on tobacco event sponsorship.

    Tobacco taxation was increased and the first government-funded smokefree ads aired on television.

    Health warnings were updated with stronger and more varied links to poor health.

    The Department of Health (now the Ministry of Health) made all their indoor workplaces totally smokefree; public support for restrictions on smoking at work and indoors increased (1987).

    Toxic Substances Act was amended in 1988 to ban the sale of cigarettes to anyone under 16 years of age.

    Domestic airlines became smokefree (1988).

    A coalition was launched to end tobacco advertising and promotion in 1989 and the Government announced an intention to introduce legislation to ban tobacco advertising.

    Between 1985 and 1990 New Zealand had the quickest reduction in smoking consumption among OECD countries.

  6. Tobacco tax was adjusted for inflation, at least annually, from 1990 to 1998.

    The Smoke-free Environments Act was passed in August 1990 which:

    • required all workplaces to have a policy on smoking and to review that policy annually, and also placed restrictions on smoking in many indoor workplaces
    • banned smoking on public transport and some other public places including cafes, restaurants and casinos
    • regulated the marketing, advertising, and promotion of tobacco products and the sponsorship of products, services and events by tobacco companies
    • banned the sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 16 years (raised to 18 years in 1997)
    • provided for the control, and disclosure, of the contents of tobacco products
    • established the Health Sponsorship Council (HSC) to replace tobacco sponsorship.

    The Smokefree brand was introduced.

    Tobacco product consumption per adult was low, the cost of tobacco in New Zealand was also one of the lowest among OECD countries.

  7. The Smoke-free Environments Act was amended to allow existing tobacco sponsorships to continue until 1995 (two years longer than the initial legislation).

    A contract was established with Te Hotu Manawa Māori to coordinate and strengthen tobacco control among Māori. Until this time, there was no one working full-time to address Māori smoking.

    Smoking prevalence among all New Zealand adults was 27% with no decrease since 1989.

  8. Auahi Kore programme was launched by Te Hotu Manawa Māori.

    HSC began to replace major tobacco sponsorships with smokefree sponsorships.

    The former Public Health Commission set a target of 20% adult smoking rate or less by 2000.

  9. Retailers removed all tobacco product signs in shops.

    Tobacco company sponsorships ended.

    Australia also prohibits tobacco company sponsorships bringing tobacco control policies in line.

    Air New Zealand flights (domestic and international) became smokefree, however flights to Japan and Korea allowed smoking to continue.

    The Smoke-free Environments Amendment Bill No. 2 was introduced into Parliament.

  10. Census showed that 24% of New Zealanders smoked.

    A youth media campaign - Why Start? - began and ran for three years.

    First national celebration of World Smokefree Day (called World No-Tobacco Day in other parts of the world) was held on 31 May. World Smokefree Day continues to be the only global event established to call attention to the health effects of using and being exposed to tobacco products.

  11. The Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act (1997) was passed into law to:

    • ban sales of tobacco products to anyone under 18-years-old (previously 16)
    • ban sales of cigarettes in packs of less than 20
    • clarify the regulatory powers to limit harmful constituents in tobacco products
    • ban retailer incentives to promote tobacco
    • reduce the size of in-shop tobacco advertising.

    The Smokefree Coalition received government funding.

  12. Quitline launched a six-month pilot in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty during which they received 8,500 calls from the 100,000 smokers in the region.

    Apārangi Tautoko Auahi Kore (ATAK) – Māori Smokefree Coalition was established.

  13. National Quitline (Me Mutu) service was launched.

    Aukati KaiPaipa was launched as a two-year pilot cessation programme for Māori.

    Smoke-free Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill was introduced which proposed greater protection for workers, volunteers and the public than the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990, particularly against exposure to second-hand smoke.

  14. Subsidised nicotine patches and gum were made available through the Quitline and authorised community providers.

    The ASH Year 10 survey reported that 33% of Year 10 students in Aotearoa had never smoked a cigarette, while 27.9% reported smoking at least once a day, and 15.2% reported smoking daily, weekly, or monthly.

  15. Further changes to the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 were referred to the Health Select Committee.

  16. The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was signed by New Zealand in June. The FCTC is the world's first public health treaty designed to reduce the health and economic effects of tobacco.

    National Māori Tobacco Control Strategy 2003–2007 and Action Plans were developed.

    Smoke-free Environments Amendment Bill passed becoming the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act (2003) on 10 December.

  17. All buildings and grounds of schools and early childhood centres were required to be smokefree from 1 January.

    New Zealand ratified FCTC, making the conventions and protocols outlined in the document legally binding to New Zealand.

    All licensed premises – including bars, restaurants, cafes, sports clubs, casinos – and all other workplaces – including offices, factories, warehouses, lunch rooms – became smokefree inside (10 December).

  18. The FCTC came into force. As at 26 May 2005, 168 countries had signed and 66 had ratified the convention (the convention came into force when the 40th country formally ratified).

    South Taranaki District Council was the first local authority to implement a smokefree policy for council-owned property - swimming pools, playgrounds, parks, and surroundings.

  19. A landmark legal case was lost against British American Tobacco for the death of an Invercargill woman, Janice Pou who died from lung cancer in 2002.

    Upper Hutt City Council became the second local authority to implement a smokefree policy around council-owned reserves, playgrounds and parks.

    Many more councils began to follow.

    The Smokefree Coalition took British American Tobacco to the Commerce Commission alleging breaches of the Fair Trading Act over 'light' and 'mild' descriptors.

  20. The Prime Minister Helen Clark said she found the idea of taxpayers' money being invested in tobacco companies offensive.

    The Vodafone Warriors announced Mt Smart Stadium to be smokefree.

    New Zealand, Ireland and Finland were jointly awarded the Global Smokefree Partnership's Extraordinary Award in Edinburgh, in recognition of their ‘exceptional and outstanding commitment’ to the development of guidelines for Article 8 (Protection from exposure to tobacco smoke) of the FCTC.

  21. Regulations around graphic pictorial health warnings appeared on all tobacco packages so that 30% of the front and 90% of the back was covered by health warnings (28 February).

    The New Zealand Health Survey 2006/07 placed New Zealand’s smoking rate at a record low of 20% for current smokers (aged 15 years and over).

    Txt2Quit, a quit smoking programme by using mobile phones was launched.

  22. A 25% increase in the excise on loose tobacco and a 10% increase on all other tobacco was announced. Yearly 10% tax increases on tobacco until 2020 were introduced.

    To achieve the long-term smokefree 2025 goal, the Ministry of Health set mid-term targets to reduce daily smoking prevalence to 10% by 2018 and to halve prevalence from the 2011 baseline to 19% among Māori and 11% among Pasifika peoples.

  23. In April, following the Māori Affairs Select Committee Inquiry (2010) the Government agreed to an aspirational goal for New Zealand to be Smokefree by 2025.

    The Smoke-free Environment (Control and Enforcement) Amendment Bill was passed into law. The regulations:

    • prohibited tobacco retail displays (introduced from July 2012)
    • tightened up ‘covert’ tobacco sponsorship by including distribution agreements
    • increased requirements for internet sales
    • increased the fines issued by Smokefree Enforcement Officers.
  24. Cabinet agreed in principle to introduce plain packaging in alignment with Australia.

    Tobacco tax increased by 10% for the next four years. This was part of a wider government programme to prevent young people from taking up smoking and to encourage existing smokers to quit.

    There was an annual inflation-index increase in tobacco excise, which followed a 40% increase in excise since April 2010.

    $20 million was budgeted over the next four years for new Innovation Fund, Pathway to Smokefree 2025 programmes to discourage smoking uptake and help more New Zealanders to quit.

    The amendments to the Smoke-free Environments Act came into force in July.

    Tobacco retailers must remove tobacco displays and any reference to the sale of tobacco products in the name of a business.

  25. A bill was presented to Parliament to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products.

    The 2013 Census showed that regular smoking rates dropped by nearly a quarter since the 2006 Census. This represented a decline in smoking numbers from 597,192 New Zealanders in 2006 (19%) to 463,194 (15%) in 2013.

  26. The Stop Before You Start campaign was launched, asking young adults to think about their relationship with tobacco.

    Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill had its first reading (February). This was a first step towards plain packaging of tobacco products in New Zealand.

    Quitline launched Crayons TV campaign, which highlighted the dangers of smoking, not just to the smoker, but to their children.

    Duty-free tobacco allowances were cut from 200 cigarettes to 50, or 50 grams of cigars or roll your own tobacco. The gift concession for tobacco was also removed (November).

    The New Zealand Health Survey: 2012/2013 Tobacco Use Survey showed current smoking had declined from 25% in 1996/97 to 18% of the adult population by 2012/13.

  27. Smoking among 14 and 15-year-olds had dropped below 3% for the first time - ASH Year 10 Survey.

    Ministry of Health realigned tobacco control services (to take effect 1 July 2016), including face-to-face stop smoking services and national advocacy services to ensure they can best help achieve the Government's Smokefree Aotearoa New Zealand 2025 goal.

    Quitline transitioned to a new provider Homecare Medical who run seven national telehealth services.

    New Zealand became a party to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The TPPA had built-in protections referred to as a ‘carve out’ to prevent private corporations from suing governments over tobacco regulations.

  28. Second reading of the plain packaging bill.

    New stop smoking services launched 1 July 2016.

    Hapai te Hauora Tapui and their Māori Tobacco Control leadership service - Te Ara Hā Ora becomes the national advocacy service.

    Quitline launched ‘I’ve been there, and now I’m here’ TV campaign featuring real Quitline advisors.

  29. The Achieving Smokefree Aotearoa Plan (ASAP) was launched, recommending actions to achieve the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal.

  30. The Ministry of Health developed a set of performance measures to improve health outcomes for New Zealanders, including ‘better help for smokers to quit’.

    The Evaluation of Tobacco Excise Increases as a Contributor to Smokefree 2025 report was released.

  31. On 14 March 2019 New Zealand introduced a standardised packaging regime (often referred to as plain packs) for all tobacco products. The new law standardised branding, colour, images, health warnings, and pack sizes.

    Government agrees to amend the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 to prohibit smoking in vehicles carrying children under the age of 18 to protect children from the harm associated with second hand smoke. The Smoke-free Environments (Prohibiting Smoking in Motor Vehicles Carrying Children) Amendment Bill was introduced to parliament on 17 June 2019.

    The Quit for your Pets TV ad launched raising awareness of the effect on second hand smoke on pets.

    SmokefreeRockquest (SFRQ) celebrates its 30th year. SFRQ is a nationwide, live, original music, youth event, staging over 30 events annually to give young musicians the opportunity to perform live in a professional setting, in venues across the country. Smokefree Tangata Beats, started as the Urban Beats award with SFRQ, has become a nationwide youth competition in its own right.

    Ministry of Health and Te Hiringa Hauora/Health Promotion Agency launched the Vaping Facts website launched with information about vaping as a way to quit smoking in New Zealand.

    The ASH Year 10 survey reported that 80.4% of Year 10 students in Aotearoa had never smoked a cigarette, 2.1% reported smoking at least once a day, and 5.9% reported smoking daily, weekly, or monthly.

    Smokefree is the naming sponsor of the 2019 Hip Hop International (HHI) New Zealand events. HHI is a Hip Hop dance event that sees young people in 50 countries competing for the world title.

  32. The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill was introduced to Parliament to regulate sale to minors, advertising and sponsorship, smokefree and vape free areas, labelling and packaging and product safety.

    After a long journey of hard work from community workers, advocates, researchers, officials and policymakers, on 28 May 2020, the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 was amended to prohibit smoking in motor vehicles carrying children and young people under 18 years of age. This law takes effect in November 2021.

Page last updated: 21 Sep 2020