Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 08-June-2012, Vol 125 No 1356
No smoking here (please)
A few years ago, the Smokefree Coalition suggested an end to tobacco in New Zealand by 2020. Others took up this ‘endgame’ idea, which became a focus of the Māori select committee inquiry into the tobacco industry. The Government responded by signing up to a smokefree 2025 goal thereby providing a stimulus and focus for a wide range of activities to help achieve this aim. The international community is watching how New Zealand achieves this world-first outcome.
Twenty years ago, even 10, most people would have thought this impossible. They would have suggested that it wouldn’t work, would drive tobacco underground, and turn smokers into criminals. The tobacco industry would still like us to believe this, and have rehearsed this tired litany of ‘arguments’ as part of their opposition to plain packaging of all tobacco materials.
But, both the views of 20 years ago and the tobacco industry are almost certainly wrong, and we will achieve a tobacco-free New Zealand, mainly because the vast majority of current smokers support it. Most smokers wish they had never started smoking, and are desperate to stop, and increasingly, realise they have been sold down the line by Big Tobacco. In the 13 years between now and 2025, 600,000 smokers need to quit and we must offer them every support possible to achieve that end because without their support 2025 will remain a dream and Big Tobacco will be proved right.
One of the approaches to reducing the visibility of smoking, discussed recently in a forum sponsored by the Cancer Society,1 is the requirement for a growing number of public places to be designated smokefree, especially those where children are likely to be in attendance—public parks for example. This requires both local and national initiatives. While many local authorities have already taken these steps others may need evidence of public support before passing appropriate policies and erecting the requisite no smoking signs.
But here’s the rub—almost none of the current ‘no smoking’ signs up and down the country, in fact, almost anywhere in the world, provide any information or help to a smoker who sees them. This is a huge missed opportunity, all the more so in New Zealand, because we have amongst the best quit services in the world, led by the Quitline. We should be providing at the very least their contact details at every opportunity, and encouraging smokers to use them.
Quitting smoking is tough and every encouragement helps (the philosophy behind the current ABC programme). Developing smokefree outdoor spaces is an important strategy towards the 2025 goal, but we should use it to help smokers. A phone number, web address or QR code (these are smart phone readable bar codes that contain information such as web site addresses) costs almost nothing to add to a sign that is being made, or can be added to an existing sign.
To all those who have responsibility for implementing smokefree areas and the associated signage, help smokers to help you, and help us all achieve a smokeless New Zealand by 2025.
Below is the QR code for the Quitline’s web address.
Julian Crane1; Brent Caldwell1; Marie Ditchburn1; Stephen Vega2; George Thomson1; Janet Hoek3 (members of the Aspire 2025 group www.aspire2025.org.nz)
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