Lower nicotine levels key to creating a Smokefree nation

Tuesday 31 May 2022, 6:10AM
By Hapai Te Hauora

National Māori Public Health organisation Hāpai Te Hauora says cutting nicotine levels in tobacco products is essential if Aotearoa is to become Smokefree by 2025.

Hāpai Te Hauora CEO Selah Hart says all aspects of Auahi Kore Aotearoa Mahere Rautaki 2025, the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan, need to be implemented if the Plan is to have any chance of success.

"We need to make smoking less available, which means fewer outlets; less attractive, which means getting rid of flavours and filters; and less addictive, which means significantly lowering nicotine levels," says Hart.

"Nicotine is what people are physically addicted to: the smoke or the vapour is just a way for them to get it into their bodies."

Hart says research shows that lower nicotine levels make cigarettes much less addictive, meaning rangatahi experimenting with tobacco are less likely to become addicted adult smokers and existing smokers find it easier to quit.

Anaru Waa, Co-Director of ASPIRE2025 and Senior Fellow of Te Rōpū Rangahau Hauora A Eru Pōmare, University of Otago says, smokers themselves understand this and want drastically reduced nicotine levels made compulsory.

"Research we have done shows quite clearly that Māori who smoke strongly support the government introducing this measure," says Waa.

Hart says restrictions on nicotine levels should also be applied to vaping products.

"We support vaping as a tool to quit tobacco, not as a substitute for tobacco," she says.

"So it makes no sense to give people vape products that are as or more addictive than cigarettes".

Hāpai Te Hauora National Tobacco Control Advocacy Service Lead Leitu Tufuga says World Smokefree Day, which falls on 31 May, is a good time to let the government know that its ambition for Aotearoa to become smokefree in three years’ is going to happen quickly, so we need bold, courageous efforts, as well as resourcing to match, the huge push to get to a less than 5% prevelance of whānau who smoke across Aotearoa.

"This year, we’ve replaced World Smokefree Day/ World No Tobacco Day with World Smokefree May, a month of events and initiatives aimed at making sure people trying to quit smoking know that they aren’t on their own - and we want the government to know they are not on their own in trying to get the whole country smokefree," says Tufuga.

The whakatauaki guiding the month long campaign is Taituara, Taiwhare, Taieke: with backing, even the tallest of oceans waves can be conquered. This message resonates with many who feel their quit journey has been long, and hard, but with courage and the backing of others, achieveable.

"Giving up smoking is hard. Anyone who has tried to quit - whether they’ve succeeded or not - will tell you that. But with the right support, anything is possible," says Tufuga.

"It’s hard for the government too. They’ve set out an ambitious programme, with some hard targets. But we’re backing them to succeed."