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Plain packaging for tobacco an investment in kids’ health

7 August 2014

Plain packaging for tobacco an investment in Kiwi kids’ health – Plunket

Plunket welcomes the Health Select Committee’s recommendation that the Bill to remove branding from tobacco products go ahead, saying the policy is ‘an important investment in the health of New Zealand children’. (The Select Committee’s report is here: http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/sc/documents/reports/50DBSCH_SCR57000_1/smoke-free-environments-tobacco-plain-packaging-amendment)

The Health Select Committee considered over 15,000 submissions on the Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill and recommended it is passed, with the name of the proposed legislation altered to ‘standardised packaging'. Plunket was among organisations to make a submission to the Select Committee backing the Bill as a necessary measure to protect the health and well being of our current and future generations.

“Plunket strongly supports this Bill and we welcome the Select Committee’s recommendation that it be passed into law. The best Australian evidence shows it is effective at increasing attempts to quit smoking, as well as discouraging young people from starting,” said Clair Trainor, Plunket Senior Policy Analyst. “This represents a huge untapped health gain for New Zealand children. The sooner we get on and reduce children’s exposure to second-hand smoke and to tobacco advertising in the home, the quicker we’ll start to improve these children’s respiratory health - and that of future generations.”

She said children’s exposure to tobacco advertising from packaging was considerable: “The latest Census data indicates that as many as six out of ten New Zealand children live in households where tobacco is smoked by an adult who lives there. Our own data finds Māori and Pacific children living in highly deprived areas are up to three to four times more likely to live with a smoker than those in middle or low areas of deprivation. This Bill would mean that children of smokers are no longer exposed to tobacco branding on packs inside their homes, which would bring their tobacco advertising exposure into line with that of other Kiwi kids.”

Plunket supports the Government’s goal of halving tobacco consumption by 2015 and achieving a smoke-free New Zealand by 2025, and says the law change is essential if the Government is to achieve the goal it set itself in 2011.

Elaine Gordon, Plunket Clinical Advisor said the health risks to children from exposure to second-hand smoke were significant, and reducing the risks form a central part of Plunket’s work: “Second-hand smoke is a known risk factor in Sudden Unexpected Death of an Infant (SUDI - also known as SIDS or cot death) as well as coughs, colds, respiratory problems such as bronchiolitis, pneumonia, asthma and ear infections including glue ear. Children with asthma are especially sensitive to second hand smoke. It may cause more asthma attacks and the attacks may be more severe, requiring trips to the hospital.

“Plunket works in partnership with families and whānau to connect them with services that will support them to become smoke-free. During Plunket visits we have conversations and share information with families and whānau about the benefits of being smoke-free. All Plunket nurses are trained to deliver cessation support and in some cases Nicotine Replacement Therapy.”

She said that plain packaging was an important part of the range of policies and support services needed to protect children from the serious health impacts of second-hand smoke.

Notes

• Since introducing plain packaging in 2012, Australia’s Commonwealth Treasury reports tobacco clearances (including excise and customs duty) fell by 3.4% in 2013. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported that in the March quarter 2014 the consumption of tobacco was the lowest ever recorded. http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/tobacco-kff

• The Smokefree 2025 commitment was made by the Government in response to the Māori Affairs committee’s inquiry into the tobacco industry and the consequences of smoking for Māori.http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/preventative-health-wellness/tobacco-control/smokefree-2025

• In August 2013 the New Zealand Medical Journal reported Māori children are at twice the risk of being exposed to second-hand smoke in the home.

• Smoke exposure assessment, cessation support, and the promotion of smoke-free environments is a part of Plunket’s everyday work to help give every child the best start in life. This includes advocating for plain packaging on tobacco products to prevent harmful advertising messages reaching the under fives.

• Along with more severe health impacts, children who are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke cough and wheeze more, have more difficulty getting over colds, and miss many more school days than children who aren’t exposed. Second hand smoke can cause other symptoms including stuffy nose, headache, sore throat, eye irritation, and hoarseness.

ENDS

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