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Defence Force sets smokefree target

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/05/2017

New Zealand's Defence Force has revealed an ambitious plan to be completely smokefree by 2020.

The announcement raised sharply different reactions in parliament.

"I think it's an amazing accomplishment and leading by example," said Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox.

NZ First leader Winston Peters said the government was anti-smoking but continued to gather revenue from tobacco taxes.

"This is the kind of government that would send somebody to die and won't give him or her a chance to have a smoke before it happens," he told reporters.

The party's defence spokesman, former army officer Ron Mark, said he was concerned the ban would extend to military houses, which meant spouses, partners and children.

"I understand the health benefits of not smoking but we have made it very clear it's a step too far to dictate to people how they should live their lives every second of the day."

If the NZDF succeeds it'll be the first military in the world to cut out smoking, setting a benchmark for services worldwide, according to Commander Karen Ward.

The nation's fourth-largest employer will ban the sale of cigarettes at its camps and military bases, and make NZDF houses smokefree to reach the goal, it announced at Parliament as part of World Smokefree Day on Wednesday.

Camps and bases would also eventually become entirely smokefree.

The Defence Force says it will continue to promote smoking cessation and offer support to staff through the process.

The government has set its own target for New Zealand to become smokefree by 2025.

Both smokefree targets aim to reduce rates to less than 5 per cent of the population being daily cigarette smokers.

The NZDF announcement is a major milestone, according to Action on Smoking Health New Zealand chairman Robert Beaglehole.

"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," he said.

It follows a call on Monday by former Prime Minister Helen Clark for politicians to unite and make a stand against the tobacco industry.

NZDF SMOKING FACTS:

* Between 10 per cent and 12 per cent of NZDF members smoke

* Navy: 14 per cent

* Army: 12 per cent

* Air Force: 5 per cent

* National average: 15 per cent

* NZDF 2020 goal: less than 5 per cent.

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