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New research has found Government proposals to help New Zealand become Smokefree by 2025 should focus on reducing the level of nicotine in cigarettes and increase investment in stop smoking services for priority populations.

The Ministry of Health has released a Proposal for a Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 discussion document which it is currently seeking public feedback on.

A new Shosha study, released ahead of World Smokefree Day (May 31) which captured the perceptions of over 2,000 smokers from around the country, found more than a third (34%) of those attempting to quit the habit believed nicotine reductions and targeted support services would be the most effective mechanisms to aid smoking cessation.

The research asked respondents who had either quit smoking or were in the process of quitting smoking to evaluate the potential efficacy of ten of the Ministry’s proposed initiatives in the Smokefree Action Plan.

Other measures under consideration which restrict access to tobacco products including licensing of all retailers of cigarettes, and limiting the number of store types which can sell smoked tobacco products to specialist R18 retailers and pharmacies were also considered effective methods of reducing the number of Kiwi smokers by almost a third (32%) of those surveyed.

Similarly a move to significantly reduce the number of smoked tobacco product retailers based on local population size and a ‘grandfather’ policy that progressively prohibits the sale of smoked tobacco products to a new age group each year also featured in the survey for almost a quarter (23%) of smokers.

Proposals which were considered less effective levers to control smoking numbers include banning filters in smoked tobacco products (5%), setting a minimum price for tobacco – below which sales would be prohibited by law and, increasing investment in advertising and social media campaigns (15%).

However registered counsellor and addiction specialist Leanne French says the new proposals may help further reduce the impact of smoking on our healthcare system.

“Physiologically, nicotine is both a sedative and a stimulant and it’s addictive. People who want to quit smoking also have to be willing to modify their lifestyle. They need to focus on behavioural change, they need the right skills, support, and a plan.

“Previous Ministry of Health Smokefree legislation implemented over the years has effectively chipped away at reducing exposure and has positively changed social and work environments, along with attitudes towards smoking.

“The latest proposals are likely to have the most impact because the focus is on reducing harm, decreasing the appeal of cigarettes and getting them more out of sight, out of mind, and out of reach,” French says.

Nabhik Gupta, spokesperson for Shosha, NZ’s largest retailer of e-cigarettes, says increasing numbers of smokers are looking for support with their smoking cessation plans.

He says Shosha commissioned the research to help better understand the needs of smokers as they transition off from tobacco products.

“Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand and contributes to over 4,000 deaths every year.

“We talk to smokers everyday who are struggling to kick the habit – they know it is putting their health and finances at risk and yet the barriers to quitting can be formidable.

“What we can see from the new study is that smokers believe it is essential to restrict the supply of cigarettes and at the same time ensure targeted support is available to help them work through the behavioural modification needed at this time,” he says.

Public submissions on the Ministry of Health Proposals for a Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan close 5.00 pm, Monday 31 May 2021

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