In New Zealand, smoking is the leading cause of premature mortality for cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Smoking is also a leading contributor to ethnic and socioeconomic inequities in health and welfare, while imposing financial burdens on the poorest people. Progress in meeting the ambitious Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal to reduce adult smoking prevalence to below five percent by 2025 is now significantly off-track.
To get back on track, we advocate a surge strategy based on driving down smoking by facilitating smokers to switch to smokefree alternatives such as vaping products, heated tobacco and smokeless tobacco products. These smokefree alternatives present much lower health risks compared to cigarettes and with the right tax structure can ease financial pressures on smoking households, mitigating both health and economic inequities.
The concept of a public health surge is drawn from management of disasters and emergencies where a rapid increase in capability is essential to meet immediate demands. We argue that the concept can be applied to long-running chronic emergencies where a rapid change relative to business-as-usual is necessary – in this case to meet a target that will otherwise be missed.
New evidence from a large New Zealand vaping study co-authored by End Smoking NZ Chair, Dr George Laking, suggests that hundreds of thousands more smokers worldwide could successfully quit if they used nicotine-containing e-cigarettes together with nicotine patches.
End Smoking New Zealand is pleased to see Swedish snus will soon be available in New Zealand, something it has been lobbying for, for more than a decade.
Snus is a very small pouch of tobacco that delivers nicotine when the user places it between their gum and top lip. Snus has helped Sweden achieve among the lowest rates of smoking-related disease. They also have one of the lowest smoking rates in the world, now reported to be close to 5 per cent – the first country to come close to reaching New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 goal.
“End Smoking New Zealand has long advocated for a variety of reduced harm alternatives to be available to smokers, to help them find a way of stopping smoking that suits them,” Dr Penny Truman says.
“Not all smokers will find snus helpful but it has worked in Sweden, just as e-cigarettes seem to be helping reduce smoking rates in the United Kingdom. The evidence that snus is significantly less harmful than smoking is strong,” she says.
Snus is just one of several reduced harm alternatives to smoking which End Smoking New Zealand believes can help New Zealand reduce its smoking rates more rapidly than we have been able to do until now.
Auckland oncologist Dr George Laking says, “Giving a positive alternative to those who have not been able to stop smoking, or do not want to, could be the circuit breaker that we need in order to meet our smoke-free goals.
“For too long New Zealand has treated harm reduction products as part of the problem, when it is increasingly clear that they are, rather, part of the solution. Their legal position needs to be clarified, and changed where necessary, to encourage smokers to switch to them. We commend the Government, and NZ Smokeless Tobacco Co. for their moves in that direction.”
Welcome to Te Mutunga Auahi, End Smoking New Zealand. We are a small organisation in support of harm reduction approaches to tobacco control. Our members are scientists and clinicians, our main activities are advocacy and research.