In a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO), it has been revealed that four countries have successfully met all six of its anti-smoking best practice measures, which are collectively known as the MPOWER measures. These measures are crucial in the fight against tobacco use and its harmful effects on public health. Among the four successful countries are Turkey, Brazil, Mauritius, and most recently, the Netherlands. New Zealand, while making significant strides, is still facing challenges in achieving all of these best practices due to the promotion of vaping. In this article, we will delve into the details of the WHO’s MPOWER measures, New Zealand’s progress, and the impact of vaping on the country’s anti-smoking efforts.
Understanding the WHO’s MPOWER Measures
The MPOWER measures, devised by the WHO, consist of six key steps that are considered best practices in combating tobacco use and its detrimental effects:
1. Monitoring Tobacco Use
The first step involves gathering data and conducting surveillance on tobacco use within a country. This information is crucial in understanding the extent of the problem and designing effective tobacco control strategies.
2. Protecting People from Tobacco Smoke
Creating smoke-free environments, such as public spaces and workplaces, is essential to safeguarding non-smokers from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
3. Offering Help to Quit Tobacco Use
Access to cessation services and support is vital in assisting tobacco users who want to quit. Providing effective resources and counseling can significantly improve quit rates.
4. Warning About the Dangers of Tobacco
Implementing prominent and graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging can effectively discourage tobacco use and raise awareness about its harmful consequences.
5. Enforcing Bans on Tobacco Advertising, Promotion, and Sponsorship
Restricting tobacco marketing and promotions can prevent the industry from targeting vulnerable populations, especially the youth.
6. Raising Taxes on Tobacco
Increasing tobacco taxes can reduce affordability, leading to decreased consumption and improved public health outcomes.
New Zealand’s Progress and Challenges
While New Zealand has made commendable progress in implementing the WHO’s MPOWER measures, some health experts argue that the promotion of vaping has hindered the country from meeting all six goals. Dr. Victoria Egli, a research fellow at the University of Auckland focusing on child health, emphasizes the need for a complete ban on all forms of tobacco marketing nationwide to protect children from the allure of vaping products.
Recent legislation introduced by the government bans vape stores within 300 meters of schools. However, Dr. Egli advocates for extending these restrictions to child-centered spaces such as playgrounds and movie theaters to further protect the younger population.
Going Beyond the Guidelines
Despite the challenges, New Zealand has already surpassed some of the WHO’s recommended measures. Professor Janet Hoek from the University of Otago highlights the significant reduction in tobacco outlets, denicotinisation efforts, and the introduction of a smoke-free generation as transformative policies in New Zealand’s fight against smoking.
However, the aggressive targeting of young people to take up vaping remains a concern. Professor Hoek suggests that vaping products should only be available in specialist R-18 stores, with staff knowledgeable about smoking-to-vaping transitions.
Addressing Disparities in Smoking Rates
Ben Youdan, the director of ASH – Action for Smokefree 2025, acknowledges New Zealand’s overall decline in smoking rates but points out the disparity in smoking rates among certain communities, including Pasifika populations and those in the poorest communities. Efforts should be concentrated on supporting and encouraging these communities to become smoke-free in the coming years.
Vaping and New Zealand’s Progress
Jonathan Devery, the chair of the Vaping Industry Association of New Zealand (VIANZ), refutes the notion that New Zealand is falling short in meeting the WHO’s guidelines due to vaping. According to him, the WHO report indicates that New Zealand is only one measure away from achieving all MPOWER measures at the highest level of achievement.
VIANZ represents the interests of vape manufacturers, exporters, importers, and retailers, and Mr. Devery emphasizes that vaping provides a reduced-harm alternative for those who find it difficult to quit smoking.
The WHO’s MPOWER measures are critical in combatting tobacco use and improving public health worldwide. While New Zealand has made substantial progress in adopting these best practices, challenges remain, particularly concerning the promotion of vaping among young people. Balancing harm reduction and tobacco control efforts is crucial to ensuring a smoke-free future for New Zealand.
- Is vaping safer than smoking? Vaping is considered a reduced-harm alternative for smokers who cannot quit, but it is not without risks, especially for young people.
- What are the WHO’s MPOWER measures? The MPOWER measures include monitoring tobacco use, protecting people from tobacco smoke, offering help to quit tobacco, warning about tobacco dangers, enforcing bans on tobacco marketing, and raising tobacco taxes.
- How has New Zealand gone beyond the WHO guidelines? New Zealand has implemented transformative policies, including reducing tobacco outlets, denicotinisation, and introducing a smoke-free generation.
- Why is addressing smoking disparities crucial in New Zealand? Certain communities, including Pasifika populations and those in the poorest areas, still have higher smoking rates, and targeted efforts are needed to support their journey to become smoke-free.
- Does vaping hinder New Zealand’s progress in meeting the WHO’s guidelines? The impact of vaping on New Zealand’s progress is debatable, with some experts believing it plays a role, while others argue that the country is close to achieving all measures.