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‘Dental Association dismayed at plans to repeal Smokefree Amendments Act’

The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) is dismayed at the government’s intentions to repeal the Smokefree Amendments Act and end plans to protect future generations from harmful tobacco addiction.

In 2023, around 8% of adults continue to be daily smokers, with Māori and Pacific people twice as likely to be smokers than other ethnicities.

Smokers have a 10 times higher risk of developing oral cancers than non-smokers, and when combined with alcohol, the risk multiplies up to 300 times more compared to people who neither smoke nor drink.

Cancers of the lip, mouth or pharynx are unfortunately not diseases of the past. In 2020, almost 550 people were diagnosed with these cancers and added to the NZ cancer registry.

NZDA’s President Dr Amanda Johnston says people with oral cancers have great difficulties maintaining good oral health and the associated complications can drive up the cost of dental treatment significantly.

“Negative effects of oral cancer can include difficulty with speech, physical appearance, difficulty opening their mouth, very dry mouths, disfiguring surgery, and high levels of dental decay and gum disease.”

“Removing the option of smoking for future generations had the potential to significantly improve oral health and help prevent a range of very real problems before they start,” says Johnston.

It’s also well understood that smoking is directly linked to other cancers, respiratory diseases, heart disease, stroke, and a range of other negative health conditions.

“All of these conditions are significantly complicated by poor oral health and dental disease is much harder to treat because smoking reduces healing in the mouth and gum tissues,” says Johnston.

“For example, smoking is a contributor to gum disease which can cause pain, infection and tooth loss. Also, options to replace missing teeth, such as dental implants, are much less successful in smokers.”

“Any measures which can reduce the financial and social burdens of oral disease and oral cancer should be taken,” adds Johnston.

“Because of this, the NZDA can see no sense in repealing measures that would further reduce the negative impact of smoking on the health of future generations.”

NZDA believes the continued removal of access to tobacco products is common-sense and stands opposed to moves to repeal the Smokefree Amendments Act.


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