A comment rises continually on our social media and it needs to be put to rest.

It lurches around the comments section a bit like this:
“What about smokefree 2025?”
“But what about smoke free 2025?”
“But aren’t we aiming for NZ to be smoke-free by 2025.”

It rarely has much more substance to it than that. In fact, that lack of substance is a common feature of the ‘Vote No’ comments on our pages.

The spelling and punctuation is always wrong, too. It’s Smokefree 2025. It’s a proper noun. Sure, nobody likes a grammar freak, but they do have their role in helping clarify misinformation.

Looking for a little more substance though?

Well, first, there is the fact that cannabis is not tobacco. Don’t get us wrong – inhaling hot smoke into your lungs isn’t great; but cannabis is not associated with disease in anything like the way tobacco is.

According to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, “Overall, the risks of respiratory complications of cannabis smoking appear to be relatively small and to be far lower than those of tobacco smoking.” Conflating cannabis and tobacco is a zombie argument move.

Secondly, Smokefree 2025’s goal is not actually a tobacco-free population. The aim is to get to under 5% of the people using tobacco by 2025. The government knows 0% is impossible.

There is no plan to ban tobacco either. The Health Promotion Agency’s Smokefree 2025 website even has emblazoned on its front page, “It’s not about banning smoking. It’s about taking action against tobacco so that by 2025, hardly anyone will smoke.”

And how has the government taken action? Through regulation. They have increased excise tax, provided huge support for quitting, fully banned advertising, and beaten the tobacco companies by forcing through plain packaging with health warnings on it.

The smoking rate has halved over the past 25 years in New Zealand.

The only thing that the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill has in common with Smokefree NZ is that they are both forms of legal regulation.

The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill states on its first page, “The overarching objective of the regulatory regime is to reduce the harms associated with cannabis use experience by individuals, families, whānau, and communities in New Zealand.”

How will it reduce harm?
● By restricting young people’s (20+) access (drug dealers don’t ask for I.D.)
● Raising public awareness of risks associated with cannabis use
● Reducing the illicit market,
● Ending criminal records for cannabis possession (and their racist implementation),
● Putting controls on potency and quality
● Taxation and a levy raising funds for health and education.
● Health information at the point of sale
● No advertising.

The Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill is a chance to replace a failed system with something that makes cannabis safer. It doesn’t try to pretend cannabis doesn’t exist. It doesn’t create a cannabis market; it puts controls and regulations on the one that already exists. It’s a pragmatic bill.
Find out more about it and cast YES as your vote on September 19th.

Sources:

Health Promotion Agency (2020). Smokefree Aotearoa 2025

Health Promotion Agency (2020). Facts and Figures

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine (2017). The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids.

Platform Trust Cannabis Referendum Q &A webinar (2020). h