New Zealand - the majority of New Zealanders support an end to commercial tobacco sales by 2020 - can it happen??

August 16, 2010 - There was growing momentum among the public and politicians that it was time to end the tobacco epidemic. Professor Blakely - lead author in paper published in NZ Journal Medical Journal - August 13, 2010.

We first reported on February 1, 2010 that a study found half the nation, including smokers, support completely banning cigarettes within 10 years. The 2008 Health and Lifestyles Survey compiled nationwide interviews from the [New Zealand government agency] Health Sponsorship Council (HSC) of 1608 people, including 422 smokers, and was published in the NZ Medical Journal. (New Zealanders want cigarettes banned by 2020..)

New Zealanders would live longer if tobacco sales were ended by 2020, according to new research published today, August 13th in the New Zealand Medical Journal - see abstract below.

PAPER: If nobody smoked tobacco in New Zealand from 2020 onwards, what effect would this have on ethnic inequalities in life expectancy?, Tony Blakely, Kristie Carter, Nick Wilson, Richard Edwards, Alistair Woodward, George Thomson, Diana Sarfati, Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 13-August-2010, Vol 123 No 1320, ABSTRACT..

Maori could expect a five-year gain, while the life expectancy of non-Maori would be three years longer if sales ended by 2020 and the gains projected to 2040, researchers from Otago University, Wellington, say. This was compared to life expectancy if smoking rates stayed the same as they were in the 2006 census. (The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, they are Polynesian and comprise about 14 percent of the country's population.)

Currently just under 50 percent of Maori smoke, and about 22 percent of the whole population, with 4500-5000 tobacco-related deaths annually.

"This is a win-win situation," lead researcher Tony Blakely said. "Making New Zealand free from tobacco sales not only improves everyone's life expectancy, but it also substantially reduces health inequalities between Maori and non-Maori."

If nothing was done, and smoking persisted at current rates it would become an even greater constraint on life expectancy and reduction of health inequalities in future, Prof Blakely said.

In another survey, for anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), asked 750 respondents if they agreed or disagreed that "New Zealand should be a completely Smokefree nation by 2020. This means smoked tobacco would not be widely available for sale." Fifty-nine percent of respondents "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with the statement, ASH said.

That number was down from 64% of New Zealanders who support an end to tobacco sales by 2020, according to a UMR survey released in May. (New Zealand - more than half of the people want to end tobacco sales by 2020..)

References: Life expectancy to rise if tobacco sales phased out, New Zealand Press Association (NZPA), Otago Daily Times, 8/13/2010.

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