Hit booze in smoking battle: experts

  • 19/01/2012

By Dave Williams

The government should consider alcohol law changes as part of the battle against smoking after studies show New Zealand smokers are two-and-a-half times more likely to be binge drinkers, the researchers say.

They say "hazardous" or heavy binge drinking makes it harder for people to quit smoking and more alcohol control, while reducing the damage done by booze, could also help the government's commitment to make the country smokefree by 2025.

The study was conducted by Otago University's Nick Wilson, along with experts from Australia and the US, and will be published in the Medical Journal as part of the International Tobacco Control Project.

It surveyed 1376 smokers and found a third of them had a hazardous drinking pattern, much higher than that of non-smokers in the survey - 13.1 percent.

Heavy drinking was more common in younger, male and Maori smokers.

"The problematic aspect is that since most smokers want to quit, and here, because of the high occurrence of hazardous drinking in the New Zealand situation, they have difficulty quitting," Associate Professor Wilson told NZ Newswire.

Smoking is estimated to cost $1.9 billion in direct costs to the health sector, but the social cost has been estimated as high as $22.5bn.

The researchers recommend lawmakers explore:

* Higher alcohol taxation, given some evidence that tobacco consumption has been found to decline with higher alcohol taxes.
* Raising the legal alcohol purchase age. US evidence shows this reduces adolescent smoking.
* Explore policies to further decouple smoking and drinking by making the outdoor seating areas around cafes and pubs smokefree.
* Consider additional funding health services to to address both heavy drinking and smoking cessation together.

In 2010 the Law Commission urged the Government to hike alcohol prices by an average of 10 percent and raise the drinking age to 20. But Prime Minister John Key ruled out a tax increase and said raising the age would be a conscience vote.

NZN

source: newshub archive