New Zealand Defence Force to be the world’s first smokefree military

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The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) announced today that they will go smokefree by 2020. 

The announcement call was made at an event in Parliament hosted by ASH New Zealand to mark World Smokefree Day. Commander Karen Ward said; “By undertaking a conscious drive to create a smokefree force, the NZDF will also be setting a benchmark for other defence forces by becoming the first military to become smokefree.’’

The NZDF is planning several initiatives to help achieve the goal of becoming smokefree by 2020, including banning the sale of cigarettes on camps and bases and making NZDF housing smokefree. It will also evolve camps and bases into smokefree environments, and continue to promote and support smoking cessation and the benefits of a smokefree NZDF.

ASH Chair, Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole addressed an audience of MPs and supporters; “This is a huge milestone, the New Zealand Defence Force is one of the largest employers in New Zealand with over 14,000 personnel, and the biggest Government department to go smokefree”.

“ASH applauds the NZDF, not just for their commitment to the 2025 goal, but for showing the leadership to beat the goal by five years. We hope this decisive action can be an example to other government agencies and major employers of the type of leadership needed to reach Smokefree 2025” Beaglehole added. 

The event also marked the re-launching of ASH as Action for Smokefree New Zealand. Beaglehole said: “The Government’s Smokefree 2025 goal came from an investigation into the tobacco industry by the Maori Affairs Select committee in 2011. That was six years ago, and there is still no government plan to achieve their goal. ASH is committing our resources to supporting all policymakers to set a strong, evidence based roadmap to get us to Smokefree 2025”  

The announcement follows a call in Monday’s New Zealand Herald by former Prime Minister, and ASH Patron Helen Clark for politicians to unite to end tobacco. Clark wrote: “If our politicians don’t make this a priority, don’t act on the evidence and don’t stand up together against the tobacco industry, we will be mourning lives lost to tobacco for another generation”.

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Further information:

·       The NZDF’s smoking rate is 10-12%. Broken down by service, smoking rates are: Navy 14%, Army 12%, and Air Force at 5%.  

·       New Zealand has approximately 15% of people over 15 years’ old smoking daily, according to the New Zealand Census 2013 (Statistics New Zealand).

·       The Government’s Smokefree 2025  and the Smokefree NZDF goals are based on achieving adult daily smoking prevalence under 5% by 2025. 

·       ASH is an independent NGO dedicated to eliminating the death and harm caused by tobacco.