Tobacco and Cigarette Making
Tobacco and Cigarette Making
During the war, the tobacco and cigarette making industry in New Zealand took over most of the local market from the pre-war overseas suppliers of manufactured tobacco and cigarettes. The number of cigarettes made in New Zealand more than doubled between 1938–39 and 1941–42. The industry was to continue to strengthen its position for the remaining war years and to hold the bulk of the market after the war.
This expansion was not entirely an effect of war. In its 1939 report,1 issued before the outbreak of war, the Department of Industries and Commerce had said: ‘It is the policy of the Government to develop both the growing and manufacture of tobacco in New Zealand, and further steps have been taken by the Government to this end during the past year. Chief of these perhaps is the Government's policy of import control and selection. By a progressive curtailment of imports of manufactured tobacco and cigarettes, and by the utilization of a progressively larger quantity of New Zealand leaf, it is hoped that the industry will continue to grow in influence and importance year by year.’
Progressively this policy was intensified. The original reasons for it were soon supported by new justifications arising out of the war. In its 1941 report2 the Department of Industries and Commerce wrote:
1 Parliamentary Paper H–44, p. 29.
2 Parliamentary Paper H–44, p. 18. The Board mentioned was the Tobacco Board.
This policy was effective in increasing the New Zealand-grown content of local manufacture. In the three years 1938–39 to 1940–41, 30 per cent of tobacco used was grown in New Zealand; in the next three years the proportion was 35 per cent and, in the three years 1944–45 to 1946–47, 40 per cent. Government policy was to be even more effective in increasing the amount of local processing of cigarettes and tobacco smoked in New Zealand. Local production of cigarettes averaged 600 million a year in the three years 1938–39 to 1940–41, being then over twice that of the preceding three years. From 1941–42 to 1943–44 it averaged over 1000 million, and from 1944–45 to 1946–47 nearly 1200 million.
Expansion of production was aided by the decision of the Minister of Industrial Manpower, in August 1942,1 to declare the industry essential. Numbers employed increased by 40 per cent in the first three years of war, but declined a little in the later war years. Just over 1000 persons were employed in 1943–44, more than three-quarters being women.
Throughout the war, the supply of labour to tobacco factories was one of the more difficult problems confronting the National Service Department. The position, in the Wellington area, particularly, became acute in 1943, with the pool of available female labour almost exhausted. Women had to be directed to tobacco factories from other areas, and there was soon a very vocal opposition from a section of the public to the direction of girls to what it considered a luxury trade. Equally vocal, however, were larger sections of the public which found that shortages of female labour for tobacco factories threatened their supplies of cigarettes and tobacco. Consequently, the tobacco industry and the supply of labour to it attracted a disproportionate share of publicity.page 175
In the circumstances, it is interesting to record that direction of labour for tobacco and cigarette manufacture was, in large measure, successful. An employer wrote:1
‘Directed girls gave excellent service and, almost without exception, worked as well as voluntary labour. They performed semi-skilled work and quickly became proficient. Most of the girls stayed with us when the manpower controls were withdrawn, although some of them have since left us, in most cases because of marriage. In the ordinary course absenteeism was, if anything, lower with directed girls residing at the hostels as compared with local girls. After public holidays the rate was higher with directed girls, due no doubt to their inability to travel to their homes and return within prescribed limits. It must be remembered that most of these girls were directed to us from all parts of the North Island. With few exceptions directed girls worked willingly and cheerfully and appeared to accept philosophically their direction into industry during the wartime emergency.’
1 W. D. and H. O. Wills. The firm, in 1963, still had two women on its staff who were directed there during the war.