Raising cigarette prices not good enough - anti-smoking leaders

The AM Show 18/04/2018

Leaders in the anti-smoking campaign are throwing their support behind e-cigarettes, arguing that raising taxes on cigarettes is harming those who can’t stop.

The Government is looking into how it might regulate the e-cigarette market, with evidence the vapour is much less harmful than the real thing.

New Zealand will not hit the Government goal of being smokefree by 2025 at its current rates, according to one expert.

Hapai te Hauora chief executive Lance Norman told The AM Show in order to hit the 2025 target, the Government needs to do more than mark up prices.

Mr Norman noted that there are very few harmful products in vaping, if any, which could be used by the Government to shift smokers to a safer product.

Dr Hayden McRobbie from the Counties Manukau Stop Smoking Program says for some people it's the habit of inhaling something that people miss when they stop smoking, and vaping can fill that void.

"The estimates are they're at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking. If you look at vapour it does have some cancer causing agents in it, but it's such such low levels that they don't cause harm.

"They're not completely risk-free of course. Some of the main side effects are a dry mouth, you get a bit of a scratchy throat with them.

Mr Norman, whose organisation seeks to improve good health in communities, pointed out that tax increases haven't had an equal effect on everyone.

While increased cigarette prices have helped keep youths from the habit, the prices won’t deter individuals who are too addicted to quit.

Dr McRobbie echoed his sentiment, remarking that the tax hikes have hit families of smokers the hardest, with the price of a packet of cigarettes now upwards of $25.

"Because it's an addiction, the addiction's prioritised," he told The AM Show.

And for some people who smoke traditional cigarettes, the habit is used as a coping mechanism for stress or instability in the household.

Mr Norman suggested that if the Government were to focus its energy on resolving those issues, some smokers may be more equipped to quit.

“If you don’t address those social issues, it’s going to be tricky for them to give up.”

Watch the full interview above. 

The AM Show with Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson, weekdays 6-9am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.