Message Getting Through – don’t smoke
The Niue Health Department will not be marking World Tobacco Free day on Thursday 31 May but will do so with their usual special event to be held on Friday 8th June at Avatele.
This is just part of the department’s effort to encourage smokers to quit and to persuade young people not to start.
The Department’s Public Health Division has estimated that there are no more than about 120 people on the island who can be described as regular smokers; that represents about 7.5% of the total population. The estimate for New Zealand is 16%, Australia is a little lower at 13.3% and the UK at 19%. Although no one has said it out loud but the on-going campaign by the Health Department seems to be working with very few young people taking up the habit.
Previously the Health Department had announced a target date of 2020 to make the Island smoke-free but it does not appear that the policy makers are falling over each other to endorse that date. Perhaps a more realistic date would be 2025 which is what New Zealand is aiming for, or why not step outside the box and prohibit the sale of tobacco products on the island. The prohibition will be on the sale of the product but not smoking it; smokers would be free to bring in their stash whichever way they can.
On the government’s books is a Tobacco Bill which was first drafted in 2007 but still waiting passage through the House. The length of time this has taken might be indicative of the struggle that some in government are having in bringing tougher legislation. For the moment the government appears to be happy to just add on more tax, although there is no clear evidence that increasing the price will act as a deterrent. After years of public education, it seems that the younger people are better informed and are just not prepared to spend that much money on an unhealthy practice.
There are only three outlets on Niue where tobacco and tobacco products are on sale; of the three, two are private enterprise and the third outlet is the government-owned Bond Store. At one time all tobacco products were sold via the usual retail outlets, but then someone in government decided it wasn’t enough to just collect the duty. For the time being, the propriety of a government agency selling tobacco products continues to be a point of contention.