NZ to spearhead global smokefree push

By Martin Johnston

The Government has set a smoke-free target for the year 2025. Photo / Richard Robinson
The Government has set a smoke-free target for the year 2025. Photo / Richard Robinson

New Zealand health experts are leading a push to make the world largely smokefree by 2040.

Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole of Auckland University is the lead author of an article published today in Britain's Lancet medical journal designed to up the pressure on the United Nations to adopt the target, building on the New Zealand Government's own target of 2025.

Professor Beaglehole, his wife Emeritus Professor Ruth Bonita and Massey University researcher Professor Sally Casswell are the three New Zealand authors of the paper written on behalf of an international Lancet Action Group of academics and practitioners and an alliance of more than 800 groups committed to reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases.

They want to force the idea of the 2040 smokefree target in front of world leaders at the UN General Assembly high-level meeting on non-
communicable diseases, to be held in New York in September.

The paper says the meeting is an unprecedented opportunity to create a
sustained global movement against premature death and preventable sickness and disability from non-communicable diseases, mainly heart
disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease.

By "smokefree" the authors envisage a world in which less than 5 per
cent of people use tobacco.

They say that full implementation of the World Health Organisation's
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - measures like increasing
tobacco taxes, health warnings on packets, bans on smoking in workplaces and in public places and the prohibition of tobacco promotion - would avert 5.5 million deaths over 10 years in 23 low- and middle-income countries.

The paper also calls for commitments to reducing salt intake, promotion of healthy diets and physical activity, reducing the harm from alcohol, and affordable access to medicines.

Professor Beaglehole told the Herald the 2040 smokefree target was attainable.

"I think it is achievable, especially as we see evidence of countries like China get on board. China has ratified the Framework Convention and is beginning to take things seriously. It has introduced some
smokefree workplaces, with some exceptions.

"The tobacco epidemic is going to have devastating consequences
in China."

The Lancet paper says tobacco use had fallen in many high-income countries, at least in men, but is now rising rapidly in many low-income and middle-income countries, with a prevalence of more than 25 per cent in adolescents in some nations.

"This rise is due to the tobacco industry's uncontrolled activities
and persistent efforts to influence and weaken tobacco control policies."

Otago University tobacco control researchers, writing in the NZ Medical Journal, have congratulated the Government on its "wise and visionary" move in adopting the 2025 smokefree goal.

But Associate Professor Nick Wilson and colleagues say in their letter that the Government's goal - stated as reducing smoking prevalence and
tobacco availability to minimal levels by 2025 - needs to be more clearly defined.

They call on the Government to state a clear timeline on when it
will set the promised mid-term targets.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 21 Dec 2014 17:25:11 Processing Time: 422ms