Call for more investment in harm reduction

Press Release – Lung Foundation New Zealand

Call for more investment in harm reduction to save Kiwi lives on World Smokefree Day

Wellbeing budget still had no investment from tobacco taxes on harm reduction

Auckland, 31 May 2019 – Lung Foundation New Zealand is disappointed on World Smokefree Day that yesterday’s Budget continued to include revenue from tobacco taxes without investing any of those funds into disease prevention.

Chief Executive of Lung Foundation New Zealand, Philip Hope, said: “More than 1800 people die in New Zealand every year from lung cancer yet none of the tobacco tax funds go to smoking cessation and tobacco control programmes.

“For a budget that aimed to be focused on wellbeing it’s just not good enough, at the very least we would have expected some of the tobacco taxation to be directed to harm minimisation.”

The Foundation considers World Smokefree Day as an important time to promote smoking cessation and raise awareness about the symptoms of lung cancer to help improve early detection.

Tax revenue from tobacco increased by 76.4 per cent between 2009 and 2018. In 2018 the tax revenue from both domestic and imported tobacco was $1.93 billion – up from $1.77 billion in 2017.

Research shows people are four times more likely to quit smoking if they seek help from a healthcare professional, Mr Hope said.

High tobacco prices can act as a disincentive, but to be effective these need to be matched with investment in harm reduction rather than tobacco simply being a cash cow.

Tobacco use, including exposure to second hand smoke, is causing approximately 5,000 deaths every year in New Zealand.

Tobacco smoking is also a leading cause of preventable death for Māori in New Zealand, with a third of Māori deaths attributed to tobacco-related illnesses.

“The Government has reaffirmed the goal of achieving a smoke free nation by 2025, however it seems to be an aspirational goal.

“The Lung Foundation wants to see transformational action by the Government, including reducing the availability of tobacco to support quit attempts,” Mr Hope said.

Every year, lung cancer kills more people than breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma combined.

Eighty per cent of New Zealanders diagnosed with lung cancer have either smoked at some time in their life or have been exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke.

But lung cancer is not only caused by smoking. Thirty per cent of people with lung cancer smoke at the time of diagnosis and one in five patients have never smoked.

“Lung cancer does not discriminate. If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer.

“For this reason, it is important that everybody recognises the symptoms of lung cancer – regardless of whether or not they smoke.

“If you have a persistent unexplained cough, chest or back pain, shortness of breath or wheezing or repeated lung infections, ask your doctor to check your lungs,” Mr Hope said.

World Smokefree Day is an opportunity for smokers to consider giving up cigarettes, and for whānau to provide support and assistance to their loved ones to seek help.

“If we are to make progress in combatting this devastating disease we need a continuum of investment from prevention through to early detection and screening, including access to standard of care treatments, with a focus on equal outcomes for Māori,” Mr Hope said.

Earlier this month the Lung Foundation lodged a petition with Parliament calling for the Government to declare lung cancer a national health priority and to approve additional budget for Pharmac to fund currently available lung cancer medications for all Kiwis with advanced lung cancer, irrespective of socio-economic status.

“Currently 80 per cent of lung cancer patients are diagnosed when the disease is already advanced,” Mr Hope said.

Early detection is vital and the Lung Foundation urges anyone experiencing symptoms of lung cancer to speak to their doctor or pharmacist.

Health professionals, including GPs and community pharmacists, have an important role in raising awareness of the symptoms of lung cancer and screening patients. The consequences of late diagnosis could be devastating for the patient and their family.

For more information on how to support someone you care about to quit smoking please visit: https://smokefree.gov/help-others-quit/family-friends/how-support-your-quitter

ENDS

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