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May 27th, 2016:

‘Fat people’ to blame for tobacco tax: Winston Peters

NZ First leader Winston Peters is blaming “fat people” for the hike in tobacco taxes.

Parliament sat under urgency to rush through legislation raising tobacco taxes by 10 per cent a year for the next four years, a move voted for by every party except NZ First.

Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said it would save lives and prevent young people taking up a deadly smoking habit.

But Peters said the Government should put as much effort behind tackling the “tsunami of obesity”. He blamed the tax hike on “fat people sitting in their ivory towers telling smokers what to do”.

“This shows the gross hypocrisy of the government. They want to have the country smoke-free by 2025; why not fat-free by 2025?”

The increase in excise tax will boost the Government’s coffers by $425 million over four years, and cost the average smoker (someone who smokes 10.6 cigarettes a day) an extra $1,198 a year, according to ACT’s David Seymour.

That takes the total cost of excise taxes for the average smoker to $3786 a year. The tax increase will take the cost of a packet of 20 cigarettes to about $32 by 2020.

Seymour said the Government should have delivered a tax cut instead and made “a bold and innovative health policy change” by legalising e-cigarettes.

But he voted for the legislation because of ACT’s confidence and supply agreement with National.

Peters, a smoker, said the Government was picking on low-income people by singling out smokers – “people who are not allowed to have any freedom to enjoy something that is legal without being hit hard in the pocket and made to feel guilty”.

“The government is charging multinationals less than half one percent taxation while thumping smokers with a tax which will bring in $425 million over four years.

Lotu-Iiga said smoking was “a relentless killer”.

“But it is a deadly habit we can do something about. We need to use every measure to stop people smoking and deter others from starting. Increasing the price is the single most effective tool to do that.”

Smoking rates have dropped but 550,000 adult New Zealanders aged over 15 still smoked daily.

“Smoking remains one of the biggest causes of premature death in New Zealand. Twelve people die each day from smoking related illness. 4,500 to 5,000 people die each year. That is like the entire population of a town like Foxton being wiped out by smoking,” Lotu-Iiga said.

“About 85 per cent of people who die from lung cancer are smokers. They also die from heart disease; from stroke; from emphysema and from cancer of the mouth, pharynx and oesophagus. All because of smoking.”

Smoking related illness was a huge cost to the country as well as to individuals, their families and whanau.

“Increasing the excise on tobacco creates a strong incentive to quit and disincentives for those contemplating smoking, and in particular young people.”

Right wing lobby group the Taxpayers’ Union joined calls to legalise the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes.

Executive Director Jordan Williams said UK Government research showed e-cigarettes were 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco.

“E-cigarettes are the number one tool used by smokers to kick the habit in Britain, but the Government has kept the sale of them illegal here.”

“Today’s legislated hikes in tobacco charges are projected to bring in $425 million – more than half the Government’s projected surplus next year. That’s off the back of a demographic that can least afford it and often live in poverty.”

Cigarette price hike ‘will see kids go hungry’ – Peters—peters-2016052707#axzz49sTNDExW

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says steep increases in the tobacco tax will see children go without food as their parents pay more to smoke.

The tax will increase 10 percent a year for four years, making the cost of a packet rise from about $20 now to $30 in 2020.

Peters has slammed the move, saying it is an “attack on the working people of New Zealand” who have “so few pleasures now”.

“Frankly, if it’s a legal product, why are they slamming working people so hard on that matter,” Peters says.

“A lot of children will not be fed because of that.”

The measure has found support from the Heart Foundation, although spokesperson Louise Ryan says more needs to be done.

“I’m happy that we’ve got an increase but we are disappointed that it is only ten percent,” Ryan says.

“There is very clear evidence that increased taxing helps reduce tobacco rates.”

Labour has also welcomed the move, although Annette King says the extra $425 million in expected tax revenue needs to be spent wisely and not used to “make the deficit look better”.

She said it should be put back into helping people stop smoking and other public health programmes.

“I don’t want it to go into the consolidated fund for a tax cut. I want it to go into improving the health of New Zealanders,” King says.

“We shouldn’t let tobacco companies kill poor people.”

About 550,000 New Zealanders are daily smokers and it kills about 5000 people a year.

Manawatu health advocate applauds cigarette tax hike

Manawatu smokers are bracing for another three years of 10 per cent tax hikes, the Government’s strategy for stamping out the habit.

While many are applauding a move that will see the cigarette price-hikes continue, some wanted it to be higher.

Manawatu smoking cessation officers have said the price hikes could have been higher than the 10 per cent mark, which will bring the average cost of cigarettes from NZ$20 to NZ$30 by 2020.

The Government announced plans to extend the annual tax bump for cigarette sales this year.

Ten per cent tax increases on sales were set to finish next year, but Thursday’s Budget forecast it to continue until 2020.

Smokefree health promotion advisor Julie Beckett said the tax increases could have been slightly higher, to achieve the goal of having less than five per cent of the population smoking by 2025.

“There was talk that it needed to be up at the 20 per cent mark … at least it’s something,” Beckett said.

“But I’m really happy that they have put that in place for the next four years.”

About 16 per cent of New Zealanders smoke and about 30 per cent of Maori smoke.

Coupled with the suite of tobacco cessation initiatives country-wide, annual New Year’s increases would continue to be effective, Beckett said.

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga said the increases were the “single most powerful tool to reduce smoking”.

“Previous excise increases reduced per capita tobacco consumption by around a quarter and prompted thousands of smokers to quit.”

Immediately after the last increase, Quitline was receiving about 200 to 300 per cent higher caller numbers, he said, about 250 to 300 calls a day.

Cost was one of the few drivers that encouraged people to quit, he said.

“What we know is that it encourages more people to call us, and enroll in our programme. And we know that the people in our programme have a good chance of quitting smoking.”

But not all are so enthusiastic.

Butt Bucket owner Richard Green questioned how far the Government would go before it realised it was hurting the “poverty stricken society”.

“People buying cigarettes and tobacco are low socio-economic. The ones [the government] hurt the most are the ones they want to help the most.”

“We don’t see that many people walking in in suits and ties.”

Green accepted smoking had health risks, but there was also a serious problem with obesity.

“Are we going out and taxing chocolate bars 1000 per cent?

“All it is doing is causing higher crime and higher poverty.”

Beckett said she was exceptionally proud that her 3-year-old grandson did not know what cigarettes were, as her son gave up smoking before the child was born.

“He found a butt and said ‘Kuia, what is this?’ I felt so happy that my [son] wasn’t smoking any more.”

Children who grew up with both parents smoking were more likely to smoke, she said.

She said Maori, Pasifika and pregnant women were a focus for smoking cessation officers.

“This is really what it’s all about … making it about the children.”

But the idea of getting to the 2025 smokefree goal was “a bit worrying”, so there would need to be a bit of a push, she said.

Swiss boffins create cannabis e-cigarette

Swiss scientists have created a cannabis e-cigarette, intended for medical use, that is safer than a joint and better than a pill, they said on Thursday.

“Therapeutic cannavaping”, they argued, should be examined as an alternative to existing medical treatments which can come in the form of a syrup, pill, mouth spray, skin patch, suppository, or a plain-old spliff.

The team copied an improvised method popular among marijuana afficionados using butane gas to extract and concentrate cannabinoids — the active, high-causing compounds of cannabis.

“We were inspired by what is done illegally, underground, on the web fora,” study co-author Vincent Varlet, a biochemist and toxicologist from the University Centre of Legal Medicine in Lausanne, told AFP.

“Normally, they use this form of cannabinoids to get high. Based on what is done illegally, we found that it could be interesting” for the medical field.

The method yields super-concentrated “dabs” of butane hash oil (BHO) comprising about 70-80 percent THCa, the precursor of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive ingredient. THCa is transformed into THC at high heat.

Usually the dabs are burnt and the fumes inhaled. But for the study, the team mixed their activated BHO paste into commercially-available e-cigarette liquid at different concentrations — three, five or ten percent.

They then put “vaping machines” to work: sucking at the e-cigarettes and blowing out vapour, which was measured for its THC content, according to results published in the nature journal Scientific Reports.

“Cannavaping appears to be a gentle, efficient, user-friendly and safe alternative method for cannabis smoking for medical cannabis delivery,” the team concluded with a nod to “the creativity of cannabis users”.

It was also more reliable than consuming cannabinoid pills or foods which are poorly and erratically absorbed, said Varlet.

Safer pain relief?

Battery-powered e-cigarettes heat up liquids containing artificial flavourings, with or without nicotine, to release a vapour which is inhaled and exhaled much like smoke.

They are touted as safer than the real thing, and an aide for giving up cancer-causing tobacco — which is also an ingredient of the traditional cannabis joint.

Cannabis-infused e-liquids are advertised online, along with a rash of recipes for making your own.

Medical marijuana can be legally prescribed in some countries for pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea reduction or the relief of muscle spasms.

A challenge, said Varlet, was to keep cannabis intended for therapeutic use out of the hands of recreational high-seekers.

One way to do that was to have legal drugs with microdoses of cannabinoids.

“We have calculated that to have the same dose of what is present in a real cigarette joint… with tobacco, we have to vape between 80-90 puffs” of the 10-percent BHO liquid, said Varlet.

“Eighty puffs constitutes a rebuttal to getting high,” he added, when a few drags from a joint will do.

“The take-home message of our article is that vaping is less harmful than smoking, so you can be sure that cannavaping is less harmful than cannabis smoking for medical purposes,” said Varlet, adding there was no plan to patent or sell the product.

“Today, we have set the cat among the pigeons. This is just the first step, and we need to see how the scientific community is going to welcome this kind of possibility.”

Every Monday Should Be World No Tobacco Day

Johns Hopkins smoking cessation expert explains why

On Tuesday, May 31st, the World Health Organization hopes to spur the nearly one billion smokers worldwide to put down their cigarettes for World No Tobacco Day.

While this annual event generates media attention and is a potential starting point for many quit attempts, without a sustained effort these smokers will likely be puffing away again in a matter of weeks.

Researchers say that one way to keep the momentum going after this once-a-year push to get smokers’ attention, is to use every Monday as a weekly opportunity to support smokers in their efforts to quit and stay quit.

An analysis of Google search patterns published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed a striking trend: at the beginning of every week, there is a surge in online searches for “quit smoking.” This trend was consistent not only over the four years analyzed, but also across six languages, pointing to Monday as a potential global leverage point for communicating about quitting smoking. In fact, there are approximately eight million more searches per year for “quit smoking” on Mondays compared to other days.

Dr. Joanna Cohen, coauthor of the Google study and director of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, sees potential in taking advantage of this “open to buy” mindset on Mondays.

“Quitting smoking can be a difficult process,” said Cohen. “The six million tobacco-caused deaths around the world each year are an outright tragedy, particularly because each of these deaths is completely preventable. Far too many of us have lost loved ones to tobacco. Monday is like the New Year’s of the week, and can be used a great cue to quit smoking, to help people stay quit.”

Dr. Cohen and her colleagues are working with The Monday Campaigns, a nonprofit public health organization dedicated to establishing Monday as a good day to promote healthy behavior, and to develop tools for organizations and individuals to help people quit smoking. These resources, unified under the Quit and Stay Quit Monday campaign aim to help people quit and stay quit on World No Tobacco Day and beyond.

Tobacco Taxes to Rise by 40 Percent in New Zealand

New Zealand is aiming to eradicate smoking in the country by implementing a series of annual tax hikes.

In its budget plan released on May 26th the government of New Zealand announced that it will reinstate a new round of annual tax hikes on cigarettes and tobacco products.

From January 1st 2017 the rate of taxation on the sale of tobacco products will rise by 10 percentage points, with equal hikes set to take place on January 1st each year until 2020.

The extra tax collections will yield an extra NZD 425 million in tax revenues each year.

The new tax hikes are a continuation of a series of 10 percent increases which were enacted each year between 2012 and 2016.

It is currently estimated that approximately 15 percent of people in New Zealand are smokers, although the rate could be as high as 35 percent and 22 percent among Maori and Pacific people, respectively.

The New Zealand government currently has a goal of driving the national smoking rate to below 5 percent by the year 2025.

E-cigarette use in Britain holds steady

Smoking data for World No Tobacco Day


Data from Kantar Media TGI shows the number of British people smoking e-cigarettes is holding steady at 6.93%. This compares to the 2014 figure of 6.77% and is still significantly higher than France (2.89%), Germany (2.47%) and Spain (2.66%).

In August 2015, Public Health England published a review about e-cigarettes, saying that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than cigarettes and are an effective quitting aid. It is expected that e-cigarettes will be regulated as medical products in 2016, so they could be made available by the NHS on prescription.

When we compare e-cigarette usage with regular cigarette usage, it still far less popular. The percentage of people who say they smoke regular cigarettes in the UK stands at 16.5%, down from 17.4% in 2014, 21.1% in 2013 and 22.3% in 2011.

Every year, The World Health Organisation (WHO) marks World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), to “highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.” This year the day is on the 31st May 2016, and WHO is calling on countries to get ready for plain packaging of tobacco products. Read more on the WHO website.