By: Amy Wiggins
Another 17,200 New Zealanders need to quit smoking each year until 2025 if we are to reach the goal of less than 5 per cent of the population smoking daily by then, a new study has found.
That figure is more than double the current quit rate, according to the study, published in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal.
The research, headed up by Professor Nick Wilson of the department of public health at Otago University’s Wellington campus, found the country was set to fall far short of the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal if the current trend continues.
It was estimated that, following the current trend, 17.4 per cent of Māori and 7.2 per cent of non-Māori people would be smoking in 2025.
That meant an average of 8400 Māori and 8800 non-Māori more long-term quitters were needed each year.
The authors estimated Quitline and funded face-to-face smoking cessation services helped 8100 people quit each year – 2000 Māori and 6100 non-Māori.
That worked out to be only 19 per cent of the Māori quitters and 34 per cent of the non-Māori quitters needed each year to reach the 2025 goal.
Based on the figures, the authors concluded an unrealistically large increase in the use of cessation services would be needed to meet the target so other strategies were needed.
They proposed the continuation of large tax increases on tobacco, extra funding for cessation services and advertising campaigns as well as subsidies to help people switch to e-cigarettes, which were believed to be less harmful.
The authors also suggested more extreme measures which would involve a law change such as a sinking lid policy on tobacco supply, reducing the number of tobacco retail outlets and restricting the sale of tobacco to low-nicotine products.
Hāpai Te Hauora general manager for the National Tobacco Control Advisory Service Mihi Blair agreed the country was a long way from meeting the target.
She said the services available were good but were not reaching many of the people who really needed them.
Funding was going to the district health boards in large part but a lot of Māori and Pacifica smokers were more likely to go to friends or whanau ora services.
Blair was also supportive of some of the more extreme measures.
“We need to reduce supply around our high deprivation communities urgently,” she said.
“There is four times more supply in our high deprivation areas than our low deprivation communities.”
But methods like reducing supply and increasing tax would only work if they were paired with specialised quitting services and other options which were a pathway to quitting like vaping, she said.
Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa acknowledged the 2025 target was a “huge challenge” but said the Government remained committed to it, especially in light of the 5000 smoking-related deaths each year.
The Government had been looking at the impact the tobacco taxation policy was having and was working to introduce initiatives targeted at Māori and Pacific people.
Patricia Prime didn’t start smoking until she retired at 72.
But just before her 79th birthday she gave it up.
The Te Atatu South woman’s parents and son all smoked and she too took up the habit when she found herself bored and lonely at home after her retirement.
She was prompted to quit by staff at hospital after she had an accident.
The forms she filled in showed she was a smoker and it was suggested she get in touch with Ready, Steady Quit.
That and the cost of smoking were all the encouragement she needed and now she has been smokefree for three months.
“I just thought it was an expensive waste of money and when you’re on the pension you don’t have much,” she said.
She smoked two packs a week and had already saved $600 since she gave up.
The support from Ready, Steady, Quit, made it easier to give up because she had someone visiting regularly to support her.
“I haven’t found it difficult at all because you’ve got the patches and the lozenges. If you feel you need to smoke you just take a lozenge.”
And now that she’d kicked the habit, Prime was encouraging her son to do the same.
By the numbers
Māori Non-Māori Total
2025 smokers following the current trend 90,000 220,000 310,000
Current number of smokers who quit each year 2000 6100 8100
Number of extra quitters needed each year 8400 8800 17,200
Source: NZ Herald