Former Prime Minister Helen Clark calls for politicians to unite for Smokefree 2025

ASH is delighted to announce former New Zealand Prime Minister and ex-head of the United Nations Development Programme, the Right Honourable Helen Clark, as ASH Patron. 

On 31st May, World Smokefree Day, ASH New Zealand will be re-launching as ASH – Action for Smokefree 2025 with a focus on the urgent political action needed to achieve a Smokefree New Zealand by 2025. 

Helen Clark’s first act as Patron is an editorial in today’s New Zealand Herald calling for stronger action to achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal. Clark said: “Despite New Zealand having the Smokefree 2025 goal, progress is still too slow. At the current rate of progress, it will take us thirty years to become smokefree”.

“I take on this role as Patron of ASH because I am passionate about eliminating the harm tobacco causes to New Zealand and global health and development. I am also passionate about what New Zealand’s leadership can do for global health” Clark added.

Chairman and founder of ASH, Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole said: “Helen Clark has stood up to the tobacco industry for over 30 years, both in New Zealand and at the UN. We are honoured that she joins ASH as Patron - she symbolises the political leadership and courage needed to end smoking in New Zealand”.

Beaglehole said: “All political parties have played a part in tackling smoking over the years, and all need to play a part in reaching the 2025 goal. It was the all-party Maori Affairs Select Committee that proposed the Smokefree 2025 target that was subsequently adopted by the National government back in 2011.”

“Despite this world leading goal, progress is glacial. Six year after the goal was set there is still no national plan to achieve it. We have only 8 years to get smoking from 40% in some communities, down to 5%. No politician would deny that smoking kills, and ASH is calling for them to unite around the urgent actions, including a national strategy, to achieve the goal.  Procrastination is costing lives” added Beaglehole.

Clark is calling for politicians to pull together: “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”.

“As Patron of ASH, I am using my voice to call for urgent action on tobacco. I urge all New Zealanders who have lost someone to tobacco, and/or are fighting personal addiction to smoking, and all who want their kids to be smoke-free to add their voice. Tell today’s political leaders that we need urgent action”. Clark said.

Clark concluded: “We have the potential for every child born in New Zealand this decade to grow up free from tobacco. That’s a legacy we could all celebrate.”

Notes to editors:

  • Helen Clark introduced the Smokefree Environments Act to New Zealand as Health Minister in 1990. In 2003 as Prime Minister, she saw the passing of legislation that made New Zealand one of the first countries to make indoor workplaces smokefree. 
  • Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole founded ASH in 1982. He is a former director of the WHO Department of Chronic Disease and Health Promotion. He is now an independent global public health practitioner with a focus on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.
  • World Smokefree Day is a global initiative organised by the World Health Organisation. The Theme for 2017 I “Tobacco – a threat to development” and is calling for governments to include tobacco in their national responses to sustainable development. 
  • Tobacco remains the single most preventable cause of health inequity and premature deaths in New Zealand.



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