NZ health body criticises govt playing down smoking harm

Wellington, Jan 11 (IANS): New Zealand's Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) on Thursday criticised the government's preparation to repeal new smoke-free measures that would rapidly save thousands of lives.

In a statement, the HCA said it was disappointed to see the Action on Smoking and Health chair and director among those defending the repeal by minimizing smoking harm, particularly to Maori and Pacific peoples, promoting vaping as the main tobacco control strategy, and suggesting a smoke-free generation has already been achieved, Xinhua news agency reported.

The most recent New Zealand Health Survey found that daily smoking rates had decreased to 6.8 per cent, from 8.3 per cent the previous year.

"But it's critical not to underestimate the devastating harm of smoked tobacco and to do everything possible to reduce that harm," the statement said, adding this proportion of daily smokers is equivalent to 284,000 New Zealanders who are being irreparably harmed and will die early.

It said Maori daily smoking rates remain 2.5 times that of non-Maori at 17 per cent.

In the 2021-2022 Health Survey results, the daily smoking rate for Pacific people was 18.1 per cent.

The new smoke-free measures would have reduced smoking harm to Maori, both in health and financial terms, and "to repeal those would be a travesty", HCA co-chair Lisa Te Morenga said, adding it is wrong to conclude from the Health Survey data that the new smoke-free measures can be abandoned.

These measures of reducing retailers and nicotine levels in cigarettes, and creating a smoke-free generation would "rapidly and dramatically cut tobacco addiction by addressing the availability and addictiveness of smoked tobacco", Te Morenga said.

New Zealand's current tobacco control measures alone will not achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal, which aims at less than 5 per cent smoking rates for all ethnic groups, without the new smokefree law measures, said the HCA statement.

Last month, a survey showed the majority of New Zealanders want to retain the smoke-free law, including reducing the amount of nicotine allowed in cigarettes, reducing the number of retailers and ending sales of cigarettes to the next generation.

Of those surveyed, 44 per cent said they "strongly support keeping the smoke-free laws" and 23 per cent said they "support keeping these smoke-free laws".



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Title: NZ health body criticises govt playing down smoking harm

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