Smokefree NZ a pipe dream without drastic measures
By Tamara McLean
New Zealand has no chance of hitting its 2025 smokefree goal unless it adopts a radical, tough love policy that forces Kiwis tobacco addicts to quit, experts say.
Public health experts are advocating that the government consider adopting brave new measures, including stripping nicotine from tobacco, after forecasts showed the country's smoking targets won't be met.
University of Otago research published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today shows 10 percent of residents will smoke in 2025 if current anti-smoking policies remain in place.
Further modelling shows the rate would drop to 8.7 percent if the 10 percent tax increase on tobacco, promised until 2016, is continued until 2025.
While this is an improvement, it still falls short of a smoking rate below five percent required if New Zealand is to meet its bold 2025 smokefree goal.
"Something more, something drastic, radical and shocking is needed if New Zealand is to reach its goal," epidemiologist and study co-author Professor Tony Blakely told NZ Newswire.
The team is floating several options available to the government that effectively force smokers to give up.
These include requiring tobacco companies to strip sweeteners from cigarettes, or more controversially, removing the addictive nicotine.
"Companies can progressively strip nicotine out of the product until there's none left," Prof Blakely said. "It's effectively mass weaning and it would work."
Other options include reducing tobacco imports annually until they're banned, or gradually lifting the minimum purchase age to stop young people taking up the habit.
Alternatively, the government could make e-cigarettes and nicotine inhalers available in the place of cigarettes.
"I'm not saying I'm backing that approach but something big, something brave like this has to happen if we as a nation are serious about quitting," he said.
The research used 2013 Census results to predict future smoking rates. It found:
* Under current policy, smoking rates will be 10 percent by 2025, double the five per cent goal
* Rates for non-Maori men and women will be eight percent and six percent, while rates for Maori men and women will sit at 19 percent each.
* Maori won't be smokefree until after 2060. Other New Zealanders would reach the target between 2032 and 2040.
source: newshub archive