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Lack of tobacco control strategy means smoking decline is stalling

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Smokefree Coalition is saddened but not surprised by the slowing decline in current smoking rates as shown by the Ministry of Health’s 2014/2015 Health Survey results. Executive Director Dr Prudence Stone says the 10 percent annual tobacco excise tax increases are losing momentum, and the sector does not have the health promotion resources it needs to encourage more New Zealanders to quit.

The Ministry of Health released its key results from the 2014/2015 Health Survey last week, showing a slow decrease in the current smoking rate (adults who smoke at least monthly), from 20 percent in 2006/2007 to 17 percent in 2014/2015. The daily smoking rate is virtually unchanged since the New Zealand 2013 Census, remaining at 15 percent.

"On 1 January 2016 the last of the 10 percent annual tobacco excise tax increases will raise the price of tobacco, but there is no indication further tax increases are coming. We've seen the impact of these increases on price lessen year after year as the tobacco industry learns how to adjust its pricing across its brand variants. We predict registrations to the Quitline this New Year will be what they were in 2010, before excise increases were introduced," says Dr Stone.

"Quitline and all the local cessation services do an amazing job supporting the demand for quitting tobacco that’s out there in New Zealand. There’s real commitment shown year after year by those who smoke to keep giving quitting a go. What we need is to see a stronger commitment from Government to keep this momentum going. We need higher excise tax increases, tougher regulation on tobacco supply, and the plain packs bill to get prioritised in 2016."

Five countries (Burkina Faso, Ireland, Hungary, France and UK) have now followed Australia’s lead in implementing plain packaging for tobacco. Ten more (Belgium, Chile, the six Gulf Cooperation Council Nations, Iceland, and Norway) have legislation currently underway in their parliaments. New Zealand’s Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco dissuasive packaging) Amendment Bill was introduced 24 months ago and still awaits its second and third reading.

Smokefree Coalition members say they are concerned that without any Government strategy for tobacco control legislation in 2016 the smoking rate in New Zealand will continue to plateau and the goal of a Smokefree nation by 2025 will be increasingly unlikely.

"The return on investment for New Zealand’s public health would be exponential if bold leglisative action is taken: fewer New Zealanders with cancer, cardiac disease, and respiratory illness. Fewer birth complications and sudden unexpected death in infancy, and a reduction in the hospital and emergency expenses that go with all that suffering.

"We call on Government to stay focused on the commitment made in 2011. To get the job done by 2025, we wish for a New Year with hope and fewer people affected by smoking-related diseases."

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