News and events

News and Events

December 2021

New Zealand’s cutting edge ‘Smokefree Aotearoa 2025’ Action Plan

The Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan was launched on Thursday 9 December 2021 and is something all New Zealanders should be proud of. CFAR members have undertaken research to inform the development of some of the planned policy initiatives, and have been active in submitting submissions to government to shape the plan. Key policy changes include: a nicotine reduction strategy, a smoke-free generation and tobacco supply reduction. Full details can be found here:

CFAR in the Media:

Research from CFAR members which has contributed to the action plan includes:
  • Donny E, Walker N, Hatsukami D, Bullen C. Reducing the nicotine content of combusted tobacco products sold in New Zealand. Tobacco Control 2016 doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2016-053186.
  • Walker N, Fraser T, Howe C, Laugesen M, Truman P, Parag V, Glover M, Bullen C.  Abrupt nicotine reduction as an endgame policy: a randomised trial. Tobacco Control. 2015; 24 (e4); e251-e257 doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2014-051801.
  • Walker N, Howe C, Bullen C, Grigg M, Glover M, McRobbie H, Laugesen M, Parag V, Whittaker R. The combined effect of very low nicotine content cigarettes, used as an adjunct to usual Quitline care (nicotine replacement therapy and behavioural support) on smoking cessation: a randomized controlled trial.  Addiction 2012: 107 (10); 1857–1867. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012.03906.x


October 2021

Substance-Related Harm: Different Perspectives

Professor Joe Boden and Associate Professor Fiona Hutton presented at a CFAR Seminar. Each presented on different aspects of harm, in a thought-provoking and inspiring session.

Joe Boden: The road to perdition: how science paves the way for the drug war

Joe BodenWe do science with the goal of helping people and society, but the science investigating the harms of illicit drugs has not always had a beneficial effect. In Joe’s presentation he reviewed some of our errors in scientific reasoning and understanding that have unintentionally provided fuel for perpetuating the War on Drugs.  Professor Joe Boden is Director of the Christchurch Health and Development Study, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago Christchurch. Contact:




Fiona Hutton: Can we imagine health based approach to drugs or does ‘stuff’ get in the way?

Fiona HuttonA ‘health based approach to drugs’ is often referred to as an alternative to criminalising those who use illicit drugs. While this approach is welcomed by many, there are barriers to fully considering this approach based in stigmatising tropes about people who use drugs. This presentation will consider what a ‘health based approach’ might mean and the things that get in the way of moving forward with drug law reform.  Associate Professor Fiona Hutton is Deputy Director (undergraduate), Institute of Criminology, Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University, Wellington.


August 2021

“NZ Drug Foundation: Transforming our approach to drugs through evidence and innovation.” August 17th 2021

New Zealand Drug Foundation Executive Director Sarah Helm (Pākehā/Ngāi Tahu) talked about the role of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, its history and goals. Sarah has worked at the forefront of change on health, youth, social and environmental issues. She has worked at the Alcohol Advisory Council, Health Promotion Agency, NZ AIDS Foundation, NZ Association of Adolescent Health & Development (Ara Taiohi) and Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.




March 2021

Policy influence and the legalized cannabis industry

CFAR member, Professor Peter Adams has recently presented, in the journal ‘Addiction’ a theoretical model outlining the influence of the cannabis industry on the New Zealand regulatory environment.  To read more click here


February 2021

Addiction and COVID

CFAR members have recently published on the topic of addiction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Farhoudian Ali,…Galea-Singer S,…. Razaghi E. COVID-19 and Substance Use Disorders: Recommendations to a Comprehensive Healthcare Response. An International Society of Addiction Medicine Practice and Policy Interest Group Position Paper. Basic and Clinical Neuroscience, 2020, 11(2), 133-14.
  2. Galea-Singer S, Newcombe D, Farnsworth-Grodd V, Sheridan J, Adams P, Walker N. Challenges of virtual talking therapies for substance misuse in New Zealand during the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Opinion Piece. New Zealand Medical Journal 2020; 22 May; 133 (1515).
  3. Hammoud M, Grulich A, Holt M, Maher L, Murphy D, Jin F, Bavinton B, Haire B, Ellard J, Vaccher S, Saxton P, Bourne A, Degenhardt L, Storer D, Prestage G. Substantial decline in HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) following COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions in Australia: Results from a prospective observational study of gay and bisexual men. JAIDS 2020 DOI: 10.1097/qai.0000000000002514
  4. Ramalho R. Alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems during the COVID-19 pandemic: A narrative review. Australasian Psychiatry, 2020; 28(5), 524–526. doi: 10.1177/1039856220943024.
  5. Stowe MJ, Calvey T, Scheibein F, Arya S, Saad NA, Shirasaka T, ….Ramalho R….. Vadivel R. Access to healthcare and harm reduction services during the COVID-19 pandemic for people who use drugs. Journal of Addiction Medicine. 2020; 14(6), e287-e289.


November 2020

CFAR members have contributed to the development of an evidence summary focusing on the likely impact of legalising recreational cannabis use.  This summary can be found here.

Note that the medicinal use of cannabis has its own law.


October 2020

Updated Cochrane review on e-cigarettes for smoking cessation

CFAR member, Professor Chris Bullen, is a co-author of the prestigious Cochrane review on e-cigarettes and their effect on smoking cessation. The review includes two HRC-funded pragmatic clinical trials run by CFAR researchers at the University of Auckland, one led by Prof Bullen and the other led by Associate Professor Natalie Walker.

The review found moderate-certainty evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes can increase smoking quit rates compared to nicotine-free e-cigarettes, or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). The overall incidence of serious adverse events (SAEs) in the included studies was low, with no evidence of harm from nicotine e-cigarettes. However, the longest follow-up was two years and the overall number of studies was small.


August 2020 

Professor Peter Adams on pokie machines harms

The worryingly symbiotic relationship between pokie machines and community funding. Read more here.


June 2020

Can psychedelics help treat mental illness? Listen to an interview with Associate Professor Suresh Muthukumaraswamy

Find out more here!


May 2020

Pharmaceutical opioid changes risk overdose increase in NZ

CFAR member Dr Rhys Ponton has concerns about a significant change in the practices of opioid users in NZ, brought on by changes in available morphine preparations. Currently, all morphine comes via diverted illicit pharmaceuticals. However, a change in funding means that in a short while (possibly now) only morphine capsules will be available, in contrast to morphine tablets which have been available for decades. The capsules are harder to ‘turn’ into heroin for use, which has resulted in dealers undertaking the process themselves and selling pre-converted heroin powder. This practice brings the plethora of risk associated with the use of all illicitly obtained powders – that is, unknown purity and unknown quantity – which could lead to an increase in overdoses and possible injection-related harms, especially if the powder is ‘cut’ with some other product.

If you’re interested in knowing more on this topic, please contact Dr Ponton at Or read his letter on this issue, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, 13th March 2020:​ [access by subscription]

Step Away: a Alcohol Reduction App for Kiwis

A mobile app called ‘Step Away: NZ Edition’ has been developed and tested (using a clinical trial design) by CFAR researchers at the University of Auckland, Waitemata District Health Board and the University of Anchorage Alaska, to help New Zealanders manage their alcohol consumption. Development of the app was supported by a research grant from the Health Research Council.

The ‘Step Away: NZ Edition’ app is evidence-based and designed to support people to assess their level of drinking, set goals, use various tools to manage their drinking, and quickly and easily connect with relevant support networks.

The app is now free to access via the Apple store (a version for android phones is not yet available). A link to the app can be found here:

New app for people experiencing gambling harms or problems

Manaaki’ is a new mHealth cognitive behavioural therapy app for people experiencing gambling harms or problems.  The app has been developed at the National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI), School of Population Health, University of Auckland, and is based on the Deakin University (Australia) GamblingLess on-line tool.

The study is led by CFAR member Gayl Humphrey (NIHI), in partnership with colleagues from the Social and Community Health Section at the University of Auckland, Deakin University, and Hāpai te Hauora.

The researchers are looking into Manaaki’s effectiveness among people experiencing gambling harms or problems, through a randomised study design. The study aims to recruit adults (18 or older) living anywhere in New Zealand who feel they may be experiencing gambling harms or problems.  The study runs over 12 weeks, and participants are asked to answer a set of questions (through the app) at 4, 8, and 12 weeks. The study is supported by a research grant from the Health Research Council.

The app will be available from the App store and Google Play Store from the 18th of May.

If you have any questions about the study or want to know more, please visit:  or email or call Gayl at +64 21 110 0901.

Recent commentary by CFAR Professors on cannabis legislation

Two CFAR members, Professor Benedikt Fisher and Professor Chris Bullen, were authors of a recent commentary on cannabis legislation in the journal ‘World Psychiatry’ – the world’s leading psychiatry journal. The article ‘Considering the health and social welfare impacts of non‐medical cannabis legalization’ can be accessed here: [open access]

Covid, the lockdown and substance use (podcast with Dr Grant Christie)

How are New Zealanders with addiction problems coping in the lockdown? We’ve seen the news items showing queues outside liquor outlets but what is actually happening, especially in households that are affected by alcohol and drug addiction? Grant Christie spoke with Vicki MacFarlane about what kind of problems they are seeing in Auckland Detoxification services and how services are supporting the community during the lockdown. To find out more, please see:​ 

Grant Christie is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland and also a youth addiction psychiatrist at Waitemata DHB. Vicki MacFarlane is a GP, addiction medicine specialist and lead clinician at Auckland CADS Detoxification Services.


January 2020

E-cigarettes may be displacing smoking in NZ youth

CFAR researchers, Associate Professor Natalie Walker and Professor Chris Bullen, along with researchers from ASH NZ, recently investigated youth use of e-cigarettes and cigarettes in New Zealand from 2014-2019 using data from the ASH Year 10 Survey. The study found that all measures of e-cigarette use increased, and all measures of cigarette use decreased, over time.

The overall decline in smoking over the last six years in New Zealand youth suggests that e-cigarettes may be displacing smoking. However, ongoing monitoring remains important to determine whether the recent liberalisation of e-cigarette availability and marketing in New Zealand has any impact on long-term patterns of daily e-cigarette and cigarette use in youth. To find out more, read the paper published in the journal ‘Lancet Public Health’: 


September 2019

Nicotine-based vapes, plus patches most effective method to quit smoking

A large community-based clinical trial, led by CFAR researchers, Associate Professor Natalie Walker and Professor Chris Bullen, has found that combining nicotine patches with nicotine e-cigarettes can help more people quit smoking than using nicotine patches with nicotine-free e-cigarettes. Furthermore, the trial found no evidence of any serious harm from this combination treatment.  To find out more, read the paper published in the journal ‘Lancet Respiratory Medicine’:

Read the article on NZ Herald here!