Banning smoking in bars and restaurants has saved the lives of more than 75,000 Kiwis, the Health Ministry says.
Since the introduction of the legislation in December 2004, there are now 150,000 fewer smokers – bringing the total smoking population down to less than 20 per cent.
Ministry national director of tobacco control Ashley Bloomfield said half of the smokers who had quit in the past three-and-a-half years would have died as a result of their smoking.
“Those smokers who die from a smoking-related illness lose of average 15 years of life compared to non-smokers,” said Dr Bloomfield.
But Hospitality Association chief executive Bruce Robertson is disputing that where there is smoke there is fire – saying most New Zealanders would look at the statistics and think: “Really?”
Mr Robertson, whose organisation represents the bar industry, said the 75,000 figure had “little credibility” and it was hard to establish such outcomes from “very small surveys”.
He said the industry had worked hard to make the new rules work.
Dr Bloomfield said cigarette consumption had halved in the past 18 years, to around 1000 cigarettes per adult each year, down from a high of around 2000 cigarettes in 1990.The Health Ministry’s focus was now on nicotine replacement therapy products. All medical practitioners now have prescribing rights, including GPs, midwives, dentists and optometrists.
The national budget for subsidising nicotine replacement therapy for the 2007-08 year was $4.5million, an increase from $2.5million the year before.
“Evidence has shown that using nicotine replacement therapy can double a smoker’s chance of quitting long term, regardless of the type of support they are receiving,” Dr Bloomfield said.
Smokers can register for Quit Cards which enable them to obtain an eight-week supply of nicotine patches and/or gum from their local pharmacy for a subsidised cost of between $10 and $20.
The programme will be expanded to include a nicotine lozenge later this year.
Quitline spokesman Robert Brewer said between 32-35,000 people register for nicotine replacement therapy every year.
When the ban on smoking in bars took effect in December 2004, calls to the Quitline doubled.
“December is usually our lightest month because of Christmas,” he said.
Source: By GREER McDONALD – The Dominion Post