Topic: Health

The New Zealand Defence Force aims to be smoke-free by 2020

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) wants to become smoke-free by 2020, and if the three-year plan is successful, it will be the first military in the world to cut out smoking, setting a worldwide benchmark.

The NZDF has a new mission, to stub out smoking at its camps and military bases.

NZDF Commander (CDR) Karen Ward says, "We need to be fit and healthy to do the job that we need to do that's the job we do both here in New Zealand and the job we do when we deploy offshore."

The Defence Force is one of the largest employers in New Zealand with over 14,500 personnel, 1350 of whom are Māori. 

“Any organisation would do well to be encouraging this because this is not only a good decision for the defence force to have an initiative like this, it's actually a good thing for New Zealand.”

Almost 12 per cent of New Zealand Defence Force staff smoke cigarettes. Of the Defence Force personnel, 14 percent of Navy smoke, 12 percent from the Army and 5 percent in the Air Force.  The goal is to reduce it to less than 5 percent by 2020.

Action on Smoking and Health Aotearoa Program Manager Boyd Broughton says, “This is a good sign for the Government there is a desire amongst most Iwi and the majority of New Zealand to stand as a smoke-free country.”

The announcement comes on World Smokefree Day and while it may seem like a major milestone, the Defence Force will offer support to its staff.

CDR Ward says, “We'll be utilising our defence health system so that people can be referred through those cessation champions that will be within the health service to actually enable them to quit smoking.”

It has been six years since the Government outlined its 2025 Smokefree goal although since then there has been no action plan. ASH hopes this move by NZDF will support a strong-based roadmap for the Government to reach its target.