Tobacco Recommendations Will Improve Health And Reduce Inequalities

Recommendations made by the Maori Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into tobacco are strongly endorsed by the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) which says that adopting the proposals would have a dramatic effect on improving public health and reducing health inequalities.

“Tobacco is our greatest preventable cause of death and illness, killing 5000 every year. Smoking rates among Maori are double that of the general population and contributes to the gap in life expectancy between Maori and non-Maori. Maori experience a 10 per cent greater mortality rate from smoking than non-Maori. *“Moving forward, this is unacceptable. If we are to address health inequalities in this country, we must support the bold measures proposed by the committee to reduce tobacco use, especially among Maori,” says NZMA Chair Dr Peter Foley.

The NZMA is particularly supportive of the report’s recommendations to ban all point-of-sale displays of tobacco products and impose stricter penalties on retailers who sell tobacco to minors.

“There is widespread research which has shown that children and adolescents, who frequently visit stores with tobacco displays, are more likely to start smoking. Studies have also found that a high proportion of smokers who try to quit experience an urge to purchase cigarettes. Banning retail displays would have a very positive impact on reducing smoking rates for young people and the overall population.”

The NZMA agrees that smoke-free campaigns must continue, and should be particularly targeted at young people – research showing that on average people take up smoking at age 14 – and also Maori and pregnant women.

Dr Foley says tobacco policies passed earlier this year, such as tax increases on tobacco and banning smoking in prisons, place New Zealand at the forefront of smoking cessation policies. “We need to continue to be a leader in tobacco control and to build on the momentum we’ve achieved.”

The NZMA supports the Committee’s proposal to Government to halve smoking by 2015 across all groups, by implementing a tobacco control strategy and action plan, followed by a longer term goal of making New Zealand smoke-free by 2025.

“It’s an ambitious target but one that we cannot, and should not, back away from. The statistics in relation to the negative effect smoking has on public health are very sobering and the policies we need to put in place must be bold and hard hitting,” says Dr Foley.

  • Blakely et al. 2006. What is the contribution of smoking and socioeconomic position to ethnic inequalities in mortality in New Zealand? Lancet. Online. June 2006.