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January 11th, 2011:

Smoking to die out in NZ by 2058

Last updated: January 11, 2011

Source: NZ Herald

Smoking could “virtually disappear” in New Zealand and many other developed countries within half a century, according to research by a major investment bank.

But Citigroup reckons the habit could be almost wiped out in Australia in as little as 20 years.

Smoking prevalence is 17 per cent in Australia and 19-20 per cent in New Zealand, depending on the data source, although Citigroup puts the NZ rate at 18 per cent.

But even if New Zealand has gone smokefree by 2061, the epidemic of smoking-related disease and premature deaths for many smokers will linger.

“The deaths stop 20 to 50 years after smoking ends,” Christchurch public health researcher Dr Murray Laugesen said.

He said the Health Ministry estimated before the Government announced its tobacco tax increases last April that New Zealand smoking prevalence would drop to 9 per cent by 2051. He calculated that the tax rises could shave off a further 3 percentage points.

Tobacco control groups were predicting before the tax announcement that on the current rate of decline in smoking, it would take 70 years for NZ to become smokefree.

But following the announcement – and Parliament’s Maori affairs committee recommending in November tough new policies with the aim of NZ’s becoming smokefree by 2025 – they are much more hopeful.

“We have the vision that it can be done by 2020,” said Prudence Stone, director of the Smokefree Coalition.

Citigroup said the percentage of smokers was declining throughout the developed world, “more or less in a straight line in most markets. If these trends continue, then by 2050 many important tobacco markets will have gone to zero smoking”.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper said the analysts outlined three scenarios they considered plausible: the graph continuing until it hit zero; gradually fewer people quitting, leaving a hard core of smokers; or smoking reaching a tipping point, after which it became increasingly unacceptable and might eventually be banned.

In New Zealand, the Government is expected to formally reply early next month to the Maori affairs select committee, whose recommendations included annually reducing the amount of tobacco for sale by a set percentage, requiring tobacco to be sold in plain packaging with health warnings, improving access to quit-smoking help, and banning retail displays of tobacco.

The Government has already introduced legislation to ban retail displays and to permit instant fines for selling tobacco to minors.

Smoking restrictions are being introduced at many parks and playgrounds, and music fans at next week’s Big Day Out extravaganza at Mt Smart Stadium will be asked not to light up, although the venue operator says people who defy the five-month-old ban will not be ejected.

GIVING UP Citigroup’s predictions for the end of smoking:

Sweden – 2028

Australia – 2030

Iceland – 2033

UK – 2040

US – 2046

NZ – 2058

Italy – 2091

France – 2118

Greece – 2231

Germany – 2280

Cigarette displays do encourage smoking, researcher says

Last updated: January 11, 2011

Source: The Guardian

In the last series of Mad Men, the directors of Sterling Cooper stopped just short of hurling themselves from the 23rd floor down on to Madison Avenue in a collective suicide pact after hearing that they had lost the contract to advertise Lucky Strike cigarettes. Some 45 years on in the real world, and tobacco advertising is banned on this side of the Atlantic and severely restricted in the US. Canada has gone further by banning attractive, back-lit displays of cigarette packets near the tills of shops and supermarkets. So, too, have Iceland, Norway, some Australian states and the Republic of Ireland. Not the UK, however. Not yet anyway.

“The legislation was passed by the last government with the intention that supermarkets would have had to remove these displays in 2011, and small retailers two years later,” says Professor Ann McNeill, deputy director of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies. “However, the coalition hasn’t yet committed itself to implementing that legislation.”

She is surprised by that. “They said in their health white paper: ‘Reducing smoking will continue to be a focus for public health’. Also, they claim they’re committed to reducing health inequalities. Given that tobacco accounts for half the differences in life expectancies between social groups one and five, you’d think ministers would want to do everything they can to nudge the public towards healthier choices.”

McNeill is a psychologist based at Nottingham University, the lead in a consortium of nine universities that make up the UK Centre. For 25 years she has worked with experts in other fields, including toxicology, pharmacology and marketing, to find ways of countering the harmful effects of what she calls “the only consumer product, apart from guns, that kills if used as the manufacturer intends”.

She wants to ensure that there is plenty of evidence to counter the intense lobbying of the tobacco industry as it seeks to preserve point-of-sales displays as one of its few remaining marketing gambits. Accordingly, she was only too glad to accept a commission from the Office of Tobacco Control in Ireland to evaluate the effects on adults, retailers and, particularly, children since the ban on displays was introduced there in July 2009. “The budget was too small to commission primary research,” she admits. “So we used existing data sets and augmented them with some questions of our own.”

Over 180 teenagers, aged between 13 and 15, were interviewed a month before the Irish legislation came into effect and a month afterwards. “We found that there was a significant drop in their recall levels when it came to tobacco displays,” McNeill goes on. “Over 80% of them were aware of the displays before the legislation was passed. Afterwards, only 22% thought they’d seen something to do with cigarettes when they went to the shop.”

But why did they think they’d seen anything at all if the displays had been removed?

“They could have been thinking about a vending machine, or it might have been the leather-bound menu of brands that Irish retailers now produce if anyone asks for cigarettes and they’re not sure of the brand they want.”

Further questioning revealed that the majority of youngsters thought it was more difficult for anyone under age to buy cigarettes since the new law came in. “Our survey of Irish retailers backed that up,” says McNeill. “Children could no longer come in, point to a pack in a display and say ‘I’ll have 20 of those’. There was an extra step involved that could undermine their confidence when it came to persuading the person behind the counter that they were over 16.”

Between 30 and 40 retailers were interviewed. The researchers also wanted to find out how they felt about the removal of displays affecting sales and reducing their income. “There are three answers to that,” McNeill says. “One is that profit margins are not great on cigarettes. Another is that tobacco sales have been declining markedly over the past few decades and retailers have been adapting. They know that if customers aren’t spending on cigarettes, they’ll have more to spend on other items. And finally, small retailers in particular are at the heart of their communities and increasingly they don’t want to make profits from a product that they know is killing some of their customers.”

So what did the adults surveyed feel about the removal of tobacco displays?

“We used a survey of 1,000 adults carried out by the Office of Tobacco Control and added a couple of questions of our own. Had they noticed any difference since the displays were removed? And did they support the legislation?”

Support rose from 58% before the legislation came into force to 66% afterwards – not least because of the removal of temptation. “Those who were trying to give up found themselves wavering if they’d gone down to the shop to buy, say, a bottle of milk,” the professor explains. “They’d be in a queue, look at the display and think ‘I might as well get 20 Marlborough while I’m here’. And those who’d already given up felt that they could have been triggered into a relapse by those tempting displays.”

Much to her frustration, that temptation looks set to remain for the foreseeable future – on this side of the Irish Sea, at least.