Scotland urged to take inspiration from New Zealand to end smoking

A researcher from the University of Otago is urging the Scottish Government to adopt a 'radical' approach.

Scotland should take ‘radical’ inspiration from New Zealand to eliminate tobacco smoking, says researchers iStock

Scotland should take inspiration from New Zealand and consider more radical approaches to eliminating tobacco smoking, a researcher has urged.

Professor Richard Edwards, from the University of Otago in New Zealand, is urging the Scottish Government to adopt “radical” approaches in its refreshed Tobacco Action Plan which is being drafted for publication in 2023.

New Zealand’s Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 action plan comprises a package of measures including enhanced targeted smoking cessation support for Maori and Pacific people, amongst whom smoking prevalence is higher than other communities.

It also contains proposals such as minimising the amount of nicotine in smoked tobacco products and limiting the sale of these products to a small number of approved retailers.

Overall smoking prevalence in New Zealand is currently 11%, less than the rate of 17% in Scotland, but prevalence remains high at 26% in the Maori community, while in Scotland it sits at 32% in communities experiencing multiple-deprivation.

Researchers said that dramatic reductions in tobacco smoking are needed in New Zealand’s Maori communities, and in deprived communities in Scotland, to reach each country’s target to reduce the smoking rate in all of New Zealand’s population groups to less than 5% by 2025, and in Scotland to 5% or less by 2034.

The warning comes as Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash (Action on Smoking and Health) Scotland, said tobacco remains the biggest preventable killer of people in Scotland.

Smoking causes over 9,000 deaths and 100,000 hospitalisations each year.

Ms Duffy said the Scottish Government’s new tobacco action plan must be “ambitious and innovative”.

She said: “In Scotland, 9,617 businesses are listed on the Register of Tobacco and Nicotine Vapour Product Retailers as selling tobacco products. We need to substantially reduce the availability of these products, especially in our most deprived communities where they contribute to severe health inequity.

“Taking the addictive nicotine out of cigarettes is also a measure that merits strong consideration in building a generation free from tobacco.”

Prof Edwards said: “Smoking represents an ongoing public health emergency and is an enormous, unacceptable and avoidable contributor to health inequity in New Zealand, just as it is in Scotland.

“Our Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 action plan is a comprehensive strategy which has real potential to be successful if implemented in full, as no single measure will be sufficient to achieve our smoke-free goal on its own.

“However, the policy to remove virtually all nicotine from cigarettes will be critical as a rapidly expanding evidence base suggests it will make smoked tobacco products much less appealing and no longer addictive for young people and people who currently smoke.

“Greatly reducing availability of cigarettes in so many shops is also very important and the tobacco industry’s strong opposition to the key measures in the action plan indicates just how effective it is likely to be.”

He added: “I wish the Scottish Government well in developing and implementing their new tobacco action plan for 2023, and urge them to reject a business as usual approach aimed at achieving slow, incremental progress.

“I’d encourage Scotland to be brave, bold and inspired by the New Zealand experience to consider more radical measures to achieve the tobacco-free generations both our countries are striving for.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our goal is a tobacco-free generation of Scots by 2034 and a range of world-leading tobacco control measures have been introduced, successfully reducing the proportion of people smoking from 31% in 1999 to 17% in 2019.

“This figure continues to fall, with the Scottish Government determined to improve health and reduce inequalities.

“A number of new strategies are currently being considered as part of our refreshed Tobacco Action Plan including improved support for people who want to quit.”

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