Smoking is the largest cause of preventable death and disease in Aotearoa and kills around 5,000 people every year.
The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners has joined its health sector colleagues to express disbelief over the announced changes that will have dire consequences for the health outcomes of thousands of New Zealanders.
The impact of smoking is inequitable and many of the 6,000 retailers selling tobacco in New Zealand are concentrated in low-income communities. International research links poverty to increased rates of stress and psychological distress, which is also associated with increased smoking rates.
College President Dr Samantha Murton says, “As GPs who work in the community, we have seen far too many patients either dying prematurely, or not being able to live their life to the fullest because of preventable tobacco-related illness and disease.
“We are astounded as to how you could repeal something that has been so widely supported and would prevent the deaths of so many.”
College Medical Director Dr Luke Bradford says, “The College recently released its position statement on smoking and vaping which supported the continued efforts to encourage smoking cessation.
“The College’s position is that while vapes can play a role in helping people to stop smoking, they have become too widely available and regulatory change is required.
“However, the appalling changes announced as part of the coalition agreements with ACT and New Zealand First will undo many years of good work that has seen over one million New Zealanders give up smoking. When there is worldwide evidence about the harm and addictive nature of this activity, this is the exact opposite of good governance of our healthcare system.”
The new Government intends to remove the requirements for denicotisation, remove the reduction in retail outlets that can sell tobacco and vapes, and remove the generation ban.
The College urges all Cabinet Ministers to realise the severity that these changes will have on the lives and the health of our communities and call on them to strongly push for the decisions to be reversed.