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.

Read on …

  1. Tobacco was introduced to New Zealand by Captain Cook.

  2. 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.

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

  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.

    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.

  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. 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.
  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. The Stop Before You Start campaign was launched, asking young adults to think about their relationship with tobacco. Find out more information.

    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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

Page last updated: 2 Sep 2016