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Ban smoking in public places - expert

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A University of Canterbury (UC) health sciences researcher has called for public places such as bus stops, train stations, ferry terminals, streets, urban centres and beaches to be declared smoke-free.

UC lecturer Dr Mark Wallace-Bell says bans should be imposed in any public space used by children and non-smokers.

Friday May 31 is World Smoke-free Day and tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand, accounting for about 5000 deaths a year.

Half of the people who smoke today and continue smoking will eventually be killed by tobacco.

Around 350 New Zealanders are killed by others people’s tobacco smoke each year and about one in five New Zealand adults currently smoke.

I favour options which protect all non-smokers from second-hand smoke and protect children from the harmful influence of adult smoking in public which signals that smoking is acceptable,’’ Dr Wallace-Bell says.

The Health Ministry has considered the idea of forcing tobacco retailers to be listed on a state register of tobacco outlets. I think that would help.

We need to reduce the supply of tobacco and limiting the number of retail outlets will help. In addition any licensing should only be provided at a high cost to the retailer. This will limit the number of retailers that enter the market.

Consideration should be given to limiting the number of tobacco retailers in low socio-economic areas. The tobacco industry already targets the poor and profits from them. New Zealand has up to 10,000 tobacco retailers. This should at least be halved.’’

Dr Wallace-Bell says New Zealanders who smoke the most were often the ones that could least afford it. As the cost of smoking increases the burden of disease and financial cost will increase for the poorest people in New Zealand.

Tobacco plays a significant role in health inequalities within New Zealand. Higher smoking prevalence is seen among low income groups such as Māori and Pacific people.

We should consider reducing the personal import limit for tobacco. Limits on the nicotine content of any tobacco sold in New Zealand should be limited and eventually phased out. This will gradually reduce the addictiveness of smoking tobacco. We need to make the tobacco industry pay more to clear up the mess that it makes. A polluter pays policy is what is needed.

Only with such hard hitting and progressive measures in place will we be able to achieve the ambitious goal of a smoke-free NZ by 2025,’’ Dr Wallace-Bell says.

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