Last updated 8 December 2005


1948   First Department of Health (DoH) posters linking lung cancer with smoking

1951   Statistician Bradford Hill and Richard Doll found that smoking causes lung cancer.

1953   Tobacco consumption by weight per adult peaked in NZ. Readers Digest publishes on the dangers of smoking.

1958   In Nordmeyer’s budget cigarette prices rose 42%; but a year later the increase was reduced for political reasons to 29%. Tobacco products consumption per adult fell 11% between 1957 and 1959, but regained its former level by 1960.

1960   21 minutes were required to earn 20 cigarettes at ordinary wage rates

1962   Royal College of Physicians London report: smoking causes lung cancer and heart disease

1963   Cigarette advertising banned on NZ television and radio by broadcasting authorities, in response to the Medical Association’s call for a ban on advertising. Tobacco products consumption in NZ peaked.

1964 January First US Surgeon General's report: smoking causes lung cancer.

1973   Industry agrees to ban billboard and cinema screen cigarette ads.

1974 Jan First health warning on cigarette packets.

1975 Jan-Dec Number of manufactured cigarettes consumed per adult peaked in this year.

1976 March Census: 40 percent of men and 32 percent of women smoke cigarettes.

1977   Print media cigarette advertising expenditure peaked

1979   The new Toxic Substances Act defined tobacco as a toxic substance.

1980   Tobacco Institute of NZ formed by the cigarette makers Rothmans and Wills, and appoints Michael Thompson, formerly director of the Newspaper Publishers Association, as its director. In this year, ten minutes of average wages before tax earned a packet of 20 cigarettes.

1981 March Census: 32 percent of New Zealanders smoke (men 35%, women 29%). An increase in young women smoking between 1976 & 1981.

1982   Professor Robert Beaglehole founds ASH, funded by Cancer Society & National Heart Foundation.

1983   Deirdre Kent joins ASH as Executive Director, increasing media focus on the issue.

1984 October Labour government came to power and Michael Bassett became Minister of Health. NZ's tobacco consumption level was 12th among 24 OECD countries. Murray Laugesen appointed as principal medical officer for non-communicable disease control in the Department of Health.

1985 May The Comprehensive policy on non-smoking is adopted by Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health and presented to the Minister of Health. Mike Kelly elicits enormous local community response to a smokefree week in Whangamata. Another voluntary agreement is signed with the manufacturers, gaining virtually no further restrictions. Dr Max Collins retiring director of public health, says voluntary agreements have had their day. A smokefree week is held in Levin.

1986 July Government backs Great Smokefree Week in early July with $0.5 million of TV advertising. The Auckland rescue helicopter gives up its Winfield sponsorship. Toxic Substances Board recommends a ban on tobacco advertising. Budget raises tax, industry adds its margins and tobacco prices rise 53 percent.

1987 Jan-February Cabinet decides to (1) ban the marketing of oral tobacco (2) renegotiate its agreement on tobacco advertising with the manufacturers, and (3) ban tobacco sales to under 16s.

1987 November DoH goes totally smokefree. Public opinion polls show public strongly supports restrictions on smoking at work and indoors in public. David Caygill becomes Minister of Health.

1988 1 April Toxic Substances Act bans sale of tobacco products to under 16s.

1988 July,Sep, Budget raises tax by 1 cent a cigarette in July, to be repeated 1 Sept, and again on 1 Jan and 1 April 1989.

1988 April-Sep New varied and strong health warnings linking smoking to heart and lung disease as agreed in 1987, appear on the front and back of cigarette packets sold in New Zealand.

1988   Waitemata City, lobbied by ASH, restricts smoking in public places. In September DoH publishes Creating Smokefree Environments a discussion document for smokefree environments legislation. Domestic airlines go smokefree at this time. DoH publishes The Big Kill showing smoking deaths by electorate.

1989 May-July Helen Clark becomes Minister of Health, and visits Canada in May. David Caygill in the July budget reforms tobacco taxation, with indexation of specific duty tax rate to the consumer price index beginning March 1990.

1989   DoH increases the size of its healthy communities team responsible for tobacco.

1989 May 30 Coalition to end tobacco advertising and promotion launched in Wellington.

1989 May 31 Toxic Substances Board (TSB) publishes its report Health or Tobacco, an end to tobacco advertising, after hearing evidence from manufacturers. The industry publishes a critique of the TSB report, and the TSB writes a Reply.

1989 Dec 22 Helen Clark announces health goals and then the government's intention to introduce legislation to ban tobacco advertising.

1990 January Leaks of earlier drafts of the proposed legislation damage the government case. DoH engages in information advertising to promote the legislation and counter industry issue-advertising, while drafting of the Bill is completed.

1990 April The Seventh World Conference on Tobacco and Health in Perth is the occasion for the visit en route of articulate overseas tobacco control experts from Canada and the United States. Helen Clark awarded the WHO medal for her contribution to tobacco control.

1990 May Helen Clark for NZ sponsors the strongest resolution to date on tobacco passed by the World Health Assembly in Geneva, then returns to introduce the Smoke-free Environments Bill to Parliament on May 17.

1990 June-July For Parliamentary Select Committee hearings overseas experts present submissions from both health and industry. Press reports mostly unfavourable. Television NZ screens the film July's legacy the story of Maori woman July Minnell's death from lung cancer.

1990 August Parliament passes Smokefree Environments Bill into law, (1) restricting smoking in offices, the public parts of workplaces, and in public and eating places and transport; (2) banning advertising of tobacco products, tobacco sponsorship, and tobacco advertising on other goods (3) establishing a health sponsorship council.

1990 October Health Sponsorship Council sponsors its first event. National government takes office, promising to repeal the Act's ban on tobacco sponsorship advertising. Hon. Maurice Williamson is responsible for tobacco control.

1990 Dec 17 Adban takes effect. Australia also bans print advertising in Dec. Only advertising under tobacco sponsorships existing before the ban, and point of sale signs already in place, are allowed to continue.

1991   The government introduces a bill to rescind the tobacco sponsorship ban, but then delays. Meantime, Parliament passes the "World Cup Cricket" amendment permitting this Benson and Hedges sponsored multinational event. The economic recession was at its maximum in early 1991.

1991 July Consumption fell even before the price increase of around 17 percent (50 cents per packet of 20s) in the July Budget, which produced a 15 percent sharp decline in cigarette sales. Many smokers switched to cheaper hand-rolled cigarettes. Manufacturers began to use price signs to advertise new tobacco products in shops. The Ministry decided not to prosecute.

1992 Jan-Dec NZ's tobacco products consumption per adult is the lowest among OECD countries, and affordability of tobacco products in NZ is the one of the lowest among these countries.

1993   Two-thirds of Air New Zealand's international flights are now smoke-free. Tobacco prices rose in real terms by 0.5 percent only in the year between June 1992 and June 1993. After years of recession, in 1993 incomes rose and consumption fell only 2 percent to 1579 cigarette equivalents per adult. Smokers have now cut down to 16 per day. Smoking prevalence among adults at 27 percent has not decreased since 1989.

1993   Environmental Protection Agency in USA says environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) causes cancer and is causal for glue ear.

1993   Cancer Incidence in five continents shows Maori men and women in 1984 had the highest rates of lung cancer incidence reported from any cancer registry in the world.

1993 March Parliament, in a rare all-party consensus, agrees to end tobacco sponsorship in 1995, in line with Australian legislation, rather than in 1993, and amends the Act accordingly.

1993 July 1 Under the restructured health system, the Director General of Health has the duty to enforce the Smoke-free Environments Act, while Public Health Commission (PHC) provides tobacco statistics, monitoring and policy advice, and purchases public health tobacco control programmes. Hon Maurice Williamson renamed as Associate Minister of Health for tobacco control.

  April No-one was working full-time on Maori smoking until now. PHC lets a contract with Te Hotu Manawa Maori to co-ordinate and strengthen tobacco control among Maori. Supermodel Elle MacPherson hosts the Benson and Hedges fashion show.

1994 May ASH under Janie Weir successfully prosecutes a dairy owner for selling single cigarettes and selling to a child. Health Sponsorship Council plans to replace some major tobacco sponsorships with SMOKEFREE sponsorships.

1994 May 31 PHC publishes its policy advice on tobacco products, setting a target for adults smoking of 20 percent or less in 2000, a target only achievable with further government intervention.

1994 Sept 20 News release in New Zealand by the Public Health Commission of Doll and Peto's research showing one in two continuing smokers die of smoking. Peto and Lopez's book released at this time detailed smoking deaths for New Zealand, and how to calculate these for the future. 4500 tobacco deaths estimated for 1995.

1994 October Ten New Zealanders attend the 9th World Conference on Tobacco and Health in Paris. Nicotine and addiction, and youth access to tobacco law are emphasised. 10 million deaths world wide predicted by 2020s on current trends. Peto calls for campaigns to help adults smokers quit smoking to reduce deaths in the next 20 years.

1994 October Dr Boyd Swinburn Medical Director National Heart Foundation hosts a Wellington national strategy meeting of government non-government agencies attended by the Minister of Health Jenny Shipley, who proposes some amendments to Part 2 of the Act during 1995.

1995 January 1 All tobacco product signs in shops were due to come down. This was well observed by the companies. Coca Cola purchased the advertising space. Many price notices, however, which looked like advertisements remained inside tobacco retail outlets.

1995 February One seller prosecuting for selling underage in Pahiatua.

1995 March 30 PHC releases its discussion paper Tobacco taxation as a health issue

1995 March 31 All Air NZ flights smokefree except for flights to Japan and Korea.

1995 April Janie Weir Director of ASH resigns, Sarah Thomson tobacco spokesperson at the Cancer Society moves to Asthma Foundation as its executive director. Lynn John, a former secondary school principal, becomes ASH director.

1995 31 May In Vancouver, the Director General of WHO awards WHO's gold medal to Sir David Hay for services to tobacco and health issues in New Zealand.

1995 1 June Excise on cigarettes raised to 15.682 cents per manufactured cigarette and 14.257 per gram of loose tobacco to maintain the real price of tobacco.

1995 30 June Public Health Commission (PHC) dis-established and many staff offered places in the Ministry of Health.

1995 1 July Murray Laugesen moves from PHC to establish Health New Zealand

1995 July 1 All tobacco sponsorships to end and sponsorship signs to come down. Two exemptions sought for Rothmans motor racing and for Benson and Hedges tennis were refused by the Minister of Health. But Parliament granted an exemption (Smokefree Environments Amendment Act 1995) till 31 December 1995 for unrestricted tobacco brand name sponsorship advertising for the Australian Rugby League sponsoring the Auckland Warriors matches in Auckland as part of the Winfield Cup.

1995 July 4 Peter Tapsell, Parliament's Speaker and leading Maori asserts that 3 cigarettes a day probably do more good than harm, which brings vigorous rebuttal from various quarters.

1995 July Ministry of Health issues a policy document Towards a National Drug and Alcohol Policy, which notes that tobacco is the most costly of these, but that Government spends much less on controlling tobacco than on controlling alcohol or cannabis.

1995 September Smokefree Coalition takes on Dr Murray Laugesen as spokesperson

1995 October 6 Director General of Health publishes a shop tobacco advertising Code in the NZ Gazette, which restricts but still permits shop advertising to continue till 1998.

1995 October Smokefree Environments Amendment Bill 1995 no.2 introduced into Parliament.

1995 27 October Editorial NZ Med J; Smokers run enormous risks - new evidence. Murray Laugesen.

1995 November Laugesen. M. Tobacco control: 10,000 deaths averted and greater gains possible in NZ Public Health Report 1995; 2:89-91. Smokefree Coalition published The 'Not Very' Smokefree Environments Amendment Bill 1995 as a manual for strengthening the amendment bill.

1995 Dec 5 Tax on loose tobacco raised by 39 percent. Increased government expenditure over the next three years announced by the Minister of Health. Consumption down 5 percent. Prevalence for the year ending December 26.4 percent, down only 0.5 percent from previous year.

1995 Dec 11 Minister of Health signs an Agreement with tobacco manufacturers agreeing to comply with the Code of Practice (on Tobacco Product Advertising at point of sale).

1996 Jan 31 Submissions closed with the Social Services Select Committee. Over 200 submissions received, nearly 90 percent support the Coalition's position asking for a stronger bill

1996 March Census: 23.7% of New Zealanders smoke.

1996 April Hearings on the Amendment Bill completed by the Select Committee.

1996 24 April First NZ Smokefree Fashion Awards event held, in Auckland, replacing Benson and Hedges Fashion Awards of the last 25 years.

1996 May 31 World No Tobacco Day. Hon Jenny Shipley and All Black Michael Jones awarded WHO medal for work against smoking. Further tobacco replacement smokefree sponsorships expected during the winter of 1996.

1996 August Media campaign targeted at youth begins. A much strengthened bill reported back from the Select Committee, but was not passed before the first MMP election in October. Shop visits and later, prosecutions for underage sales increase in momentum.

1996 November Publication of The Big Kill Continues, and Tobacco Statistics 1996, by the Cancer Society.

1996 December Price of cigarettes rises 15 cents on a packet of 20s to adjust for inflation.

1997 February Neil Kirton new Associate Minister of Health takes responsibility for tobacco control.

1997 March NZ Smokefree e-News a weekly E-mail newsletter, begun from Health New Zealand for tobacco control workers.

1997 March 21 Ligget tobacco company in the USA admits tobacco causes cancer, heart disease and is addictive, and to marketing to children.

1997 March First Smokefree Industry Conference in Wellington. Smokefree Coalition forms itself into a Trust. Tobacco consumption has risen for the last two years, the Ministry of Health reports.

1997 May & Nov. New Zealand cigarettes high in nicotine. NZ Public Health Report

1997 July The Smoke-free Environments Amendment Bill no. 2 is passed. This amends the Smokefree Environments Act 1990 to (1) now ban sales of tobacco products to anyone under 18 years of age and require retailers to take all reasonable steps to check age (2) ban sales of cigarettes in packs less than 20 cigarettes from 1 February 1998 (3) clarify the regulatory powers of the Act to limit harmful constituents in tobacco products and includes penalties for those in breach (4) ban manufacturers giving incentives to retailers to promote tobacco products (5) reduce in-shop tobacco advertising down to one price card 90 by 55 mm per brand variant, all in all not totalling more than one A4 sheet per shop, as from December 1998.

1997 24-28 August 10th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Beijing is attended by 17 New Zealanders, including many Maori.

1997 September 11. Hon Tuariki Delamare becomes Associate Minister of Health with responsibility for tobacco control.

1997 October National hui established ATAK, the Maori Smokefree Coalition.

1998 February 1 Packs of less than 20 cigarettes and pouches of under 30g are banned. Barbara Langford takes over as director of the Smokefree Coalition.

1998 April 22. Health Sponsorship Council sponsors NZ Fashion Awards for the third and final time.

1998 May 14 Budget. Tax raised by 2.5 cents per cigarette. Price increases 13 percent and supermarket sales across cigarettes and RYO fall 10 percent.

1998 21 May Cigarettes kill one in three Maori according to a new study by Laugesen and Clements published at <> The Minister of Maori Affairs gives the job of releasing the bad news to Ngatata Love CEO for TPK (Ministry of Maori Development).

1998 May 31 Dr Murray Laugesen awarded the WHO Tobacco or Health Medal

1998 December 10 Tobacco advertising in shops ended, as the amended Act required.


1999 January Smokefree Coalition uncovers attempts of cigarette manufacturer and owner of the Marlboro man, Philip Morris, to educate NZ school children about smoking, by offering free materials to schools.

1999 March After 6 months, quit media campaign ends in Waikato-Bay of Plenty with 8500 calls to quitline, out of 100,000 smokers in the region.

1999 July Health New Zealand website launched.

13 July Public Health Association (PHA) awards Cancer Society’s Helen Glasgow Public Health Champion of the year, partly for her work on tobacco campaigns.

1999 July 14 Launch of the national media Quit Campaign at the PHA conference

1999 July 15 Youth smoking symposium called by Smokefree Coalition

1999 July 17 National Health Committee launches smoking cessation guidelines for health professionals at a GP conference in Wellington.

1999 December Helen Clark on becoming Prime Minister, opens a national workshop on second hand smoke


2000 1 January From this date all cigarettes manufactured must have new health warnings on cigarette packets, include Smoking kills in both Maori and English, and Smoking is addictive.

2000 12 May Due to tax increase cigarette prices rise 20%, sales fall 16%. Calls to quitline treble and the new service overburdened. 80,000 smokers quit but most resume smoking within 3 months. The budget funds Maori quit programmes.

2000 6-10 August 38 New Zealanders attend World Tobacco or Health Conference in Chicago.

New estimates of second hand smoke mortality and morbidity published on (Woodward and Laugesen)

2000 November Nicotine patches, gum subsidized by Pharmac, pharmacy voucher mailed to quitter.


2001 April 61% support smokefree restaurants, 38% support smokefree bars. Final estimates of second hand smoke mortality: 350 annually, of which 100 due to workplace expsosure. (Tob. Control).

2002 April 60% support smokefree restaurants, 38% support smokefree bars. No government funds for public media campaign. Doctors for a Smokefree New Zealand collects 1000 doctors’ signatures in support of all workplaces being smokefree. Hearings before Health Select Committee.


2003 August 12th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Helsinki: considerable debate on harm reduction policies. Quitlines becoming more common.

2003 November ASH celebrates 21 years and is awarded WHO trophy and citation.

2003 10 Dec Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 amended to ban smoking in virtually all workplaces including clubs, bars, casinos, restaurants, factories.


2004 April UMR poll: 73% of adults support smokefree restaurants and 56% support smokefree bars

2004 May Trish Fraser resigns after 7 years as director of ASH; Becky Freeman is appointed.

2004 10 Dec The smoking restrictions of the amended Act come into force. In some supermarkets cigarettes are now completely out of sight, to avoid display alongside sweets for children, as the Act now requires.

2005 9 May Royal Australasian College of Physicians report Tobacco Policy . Using evidence for better outcomes. released in Wellington by Hon Damien O’Connor. Urges steady modest increase in price of cigarettes, attention to the huge problems of smoking as self medication among the mentally ill, and consideration of harm reduction – alternative nicotine and regulation of smoke toxicity.

2005 September Labour led government. PM Clark appoints Damien O’Connor to continue to oversee Tobacco Control.

2005 December Researchers Blakely and Wilson call for an end to smoking within 20-30 years.

2005 Health New Zealand, Auckland, NZ.














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