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New Zealand is starting to fall behind.

And some public health officials are already beginning to doubt the country of about 4.75 million citizens will reach its ambitious goal of becoming a “smoke-free” country by 2025, according to

There still is a chance, however.

A slim one, but researchers at the University of Otago calculated five times as many Māori individuals and two times the number of non-Māori individuals will have to take the major step and quit smoking over the next six years, reported.

The raw figures indicates more than 17,000 additional people will need to quit smoking for a chance to rally and eclipse the established landmark figure.

Results of the University of Otago study was released in the New Zealand Medical Journal in December.

“Smoke-free” is defined as fewer than five percent of native smokers. Currently, about 85 percent of the population does not partake, according to

Nick Wilson, a University of Otago professor, spoke of his pessimism regarding the country’s cessation programs. Simply, Wilson, who works at the institution’s Department of Public Health, contends the services fail to promote enough long-term quitters. Perhaps a push for e-cigarettes could help?

“The Ministry and the health sector will really have to massively increase cessation support alongside other things like running mass media campaigns,” Wilson said. “We are making progress but it is slow, especially for Māori.”

The Māori is a population of indigenous Polynesians, numbering about 735,000 people in 2017.

New Zealand executed several procedures to help promote a “smoke-less” lifestyle. Plain packaging and increased taxes were two of the major programs, according to

Wilson said he would like to see more accomplishments in the push for a smoke-free New Zealand.

“Our concern was that the other options are not really being discussed so if you really want to get to (the goal) you need to know what the size of the gap is and what we’re doing already to get us there,” Wilson said. “The government doesn’t even have a published plan for getting to 2025.

“You can’t get anywhere without a plan.”

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