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Smokers Urged To Quit Or Risk Blindness

20 JANUARY 2002

The Quit Group launched a new and confrontational TV commercial today warning smokers about the link between smoking and blindness.

“The commercial is designed to make smokers sit up and watch because smoking is the major preventable cause of blindness in New Zealand,” The Quit Group spokesperson Belinda McLean said today.

“Smoking related blindness occurs when chemicals in cigarette smoke are absorbed into the bloodstream and cause tiny blood vessels in the eye to burst and die. An estimated 1300 New Zealanders currently suffer blindness caused by smoking.”

Ophthalmologist Dr Graham Wilson is co-author of a study of smoking related blindness published in the 26th October 2001 issue of New Zealand Medical Journal.

“Smoking is a major cause of untreatable visual impairment and also a significant reason for cataract surgery in New Zealand,” Dr Wilson said. “There is a need for more intensive tobacco control activities in this country, to manage the devastating effects that smoking has on the health of New Zealanders.

The TV commercial shows close-up the damage that inhaled chemicals inflict on delicate blood vessels in the eye of an unwitting smoker. It is the third commercial in a campaign The Quit Group has adapted from Australia illustrating the severe health effects of smoking.

The campaign is designed to motivate smokers to quit for the sake of their eyesight and call the Quitline (0800 778 778) for advice and support.

The commercial will screen in the northern half of the North Island (Waikato, BOP, Auckland and Northland) for the first two weeks of the campaign, and then in the rest of the country for the following two weeks.

Contacts: for more details and downloadable graphics of the campaign.

The Quit Group is a charitable trust formed by Te Hotu Manawa Maori, Cancer Society and Health Sponsorship Council to provide smoking cessation programmes in New Zealand.

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