MP Liz Craig to present Cancer Society petition to Parliament

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Cancer Society Otago-Southland health promoter Bridget Forsyth, right, presents a petition to Invercargill-based Labour list MP Liz Craig on Monday. The society is asking the Government to reduce the availability of tobacco.

Uma Ahmed/Stuff

Cancer Society Otago-Southland health promoter Bridget Forsyth, right, presents a petition to Invercargill-based Labour list MP Liz Craig on Monday. The society is asking the Government to reduce the availability of tobacco.

The Cancer Society is pushing for a reduction in the number of retailers selling tobacco products.

On Monday, Invercargill-based Labour list MP Dr Liz Craig was presented with a petition that she will take to Parliament.

The national petition started on March 15 and attracted 7887 signatures before it closed on May 28.

Cancer Society Otago-Southland health promoter Bridget Forsyth said there were between 6000 and 8000 stores that sold tobacco.

There was no way to know the exact number as there was no tobacco licensing requirement currently, as long as it wasn’t sold to anyone under 18, she said.

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“We would really prefer it if it [stores that sell tobacco products] were reduced right down to a really small number. We were thinking about 300 or something like that,” she said.

“We would like it to be to R18 places. We want it to be somewhere where it’s going to be well controlled so that they’re not going to be selling it to underage people,” she says.

The society also hoped the specialist stores would have materials to help people quit smoking, Forsyth said.

Craig was chosen as the MP to present the petition because of her background in public health and her advocacy for child health.

“I’m really happy to accept it. [In] my previous job I used to monitor child health,” Craig said.

“So, I think if we can achieve our Smokefree [Aotearoa] 2025 goals, it would make a huge difference in child health … We used to see thousands of kids coming into hospital with things like pneumonia, bronchiolitis, asthma; and we also used to see a number of babies dying from cot death. And all of those conditions are often related to exposure to secondhand smoke.”

The Government released its Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 action plan on April 15.

The plan includes proposals to reduce the number of tobacco retailers and to introduce specialist tobacco stores.

Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said in April that an extreme measure could be to create a “smokefree generation policy”, which could ban the sale of tobacco to people younger than 18 years from 2022.

Consultation on the action plan closed on Monday.