American-based multinational cigarette and tobacco manufacturing company, Philip Morris International, recently placed a public notice protecting their Longbeach and Marlboro brands in the Cook Islands.
But the stakeholders of Punanga Nui Market took a counter approach: at the weekend they declared the favourite local hangout spot a smokefree area, from now on.
To mark World No Tobacco Day and protect the health of Cook Islanders, new smoke-free signage and safety cones were unveiled at the market.
Deputy prime minister Mark Brown says the government has been very active in promoting the reduction of tobacco.
“Firstly, a number of years ago, there was an introduction of increases taxes on tobacco to make it more expensive for people to purchase and discourage particularly younger people,” Brown said.
Young people should think twice about buying cigarettes and instead save their money:
“Smoking is one of the biggest contributors to non-communicable diseases in our country and NCDs are the biggest killer of our people today so any initiative to promote healthy living and reducing consumption of tobacco is something that is strongly supported by government.”
Market manager William Taripo says the Punanga Nui Market is without a doubt one of the best places to discover the true vibrancy of Rarotonga and the island’s culture.
The Punanga Nui Market was established in 1992 and designed for local farmers and fishermen local arts and crafts and more.
“The market is a very important place that holds a great value in the hearts of the people of the Cook Islands. It is our way of life, the market paves the way for vendors, customers and visitors to make a living and embrace the Cook Islands culture.”
He says the market is an asset to the tourism industry and there are more improvements to come. “The toilet facilities we’ve got now are nearly 30 years old.”
Brown says the standards of the markets were lifted in 2017 when the roads were tar-sealed so no dust was thrown up. “We want to beautify the market,” he explains.
According to the World Health Organisation, the annual “no tobacco campaign” is an opportunity to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.
The campaign also serves as a call to action, advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption and engaging stakeholders across multiple sectors in the fight for tobacco control.