Tūhura Otago Museum spent last year developing its latest outreach project, Te Mana o te Hā - Smokefree Science Showcase.
The showcase was planned as an education initiative to coincide with a suite of Smokefree 2025 interventions, but when it was revealed the new coalition government planned to repeal the 2022 Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Act, which came into force in January 2023, there were some last minute changes to the showcase.
The museum’s director of visitor experience and science engagement Dr Craig Grant said items were just about ready to go to the printers when they had to quickly make some decisions about how the potential law change would affect their exhibit.
‘‘We had to change a few things in the showcase, but just more in terms of leaving it a bit hanging about what does the future hold for New Zealand.’’
This made the showcase even more important, Dr Grant said.
‘‘If the government is not going to see through these initiatives to try to curb tobacco use, then it’s more important we make New Zealand families know why they should not start in the first place or if they are, they should try to stop.’’
Instead of highlighting that New Zealand had a comprehensive package of initiatives to try to genuinely make New Zealand a healthier place, the showcase now had a more questioning tone about what might happen in the future in regard to Smokefree initiatives.
The youth-oriented, interactive showcase provides factual evidence on the risks young people face from smoking and vaping.
The latest New Zealand Health Survey of 2022/2023 recorded a near doubling of daily vaping among 17-year-olds.
Over 15% now vape daily, compared to around 8% in 2021/22 and other surveys have reported even higher vaping prevalence within Māori and Pasifika rangatahi.
Dr Grant said the huge upswing in youth vaping was particularly concerning.
‘‘The vast majority of young people are not vaping to stop smoking or avoid the harms smoking causes.
‘‘Nicotine is highly addictive however it’s used and vapes aren’t risk free.’’
The showcase will highlight marketing and public relations tactics that have been use in the past.
Marketing techniques in old cigarette advertisements were very similar to modern vaping advertisements, Dr Grant said.
‘‘It’s scary, I mean, it is amazing when you look at some of the ads.
‘‘We’ve printed off some ads from the olden days when we had the cigarette ads, and you look at the vaping ads that you see, especially on social media now, and with some of them you could pretty much swap around the images and it would be the same.’’
The showcase will be at Tūhura Otago Museum until about mid-February and then it will begin visiting local schools and community events before going on a tour around the country.