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Smokefree legislation will save lives

Smokefree legislation will save lives

Major health organisations are hailing the proposed ban on smoking in restaurants and bars as a lifesaver.

The Heart Foundation, Cancer Society, Asthma and Respiratory Foundation and Stroke Foundation fully support the recommendations of the Health Select Committee, which today tabled a report recommending that all restaurants and bars be required to be completely smokefree.

“It is great that the Health Select Committee has so strongly recognised the link between second hand smoke and health. They have taken this unique opportunity to improve the health of New Zealanders, not just in the short term but for decades to come,” says Dr Diana North, Chairperson of the Smokefree Coalition and Medical Director of the Heart Foundation.

“Tobacco is the leading cause of lost healthy life years in Western countries like New Zealand. More than 100 New Zealanders die every year because of exposure to second-hand smoke in the workplace. These deaths are totally preventable, and smokefree bars and restaurants will lead to many of them being prevented.”

Dr North says that some bar workers are currently exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke hour after hour, day after day, week after week.

“Working in a smoky environment, damages and narrows arteries, decreases the ability of the blood to carry oxygen and makes the blood more sticky so it clots, resulting in an increase in heart attacks and strokes.”

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation Medical Director Professor Ian Town commented that second-hand smoke has a significant effect on many people with asthma or conditions such a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. It can trigger symptoms and prevent them from enjoying the simple pleasure of eating out unless they are in completely smokefree premises.

“One in six New Zealanders has asthma and around three quarters of those with asthma become wheezy in a smoky room – therefore people smoking in hospitality venues has been a significant problem. Exposure to second-hand smoke is also associated with respiratory health problems in people who don’t have a pre-existing respiratory condition and a change to completely smokefree restaurants and bars will remove this unwarranted health risk.”

Dr North says the tobacco and hospitality industry continues to argue that smoking bans in bars and restaurants will hurt business. “A recent study, which reviews all published studies assessing the economic impact of smoking bans on business completely challenges this assumption. This bill is a major threat to tobacco sales not the hospitality industry,” says Dr North.

“Three researchers independently reviewed 97 studies. They found that the 23 well designed studies with objective measures such as tax returns and employment statistics used to monitor any impact, showed smokefree restaurant and bar policies had no negative impact on either profits or employment.”

Dr North says that the Heart Foundation, Cancer Society, Asthma and Respiratory Foundation and Stroke Foundation applauded the Health Select Committee for recommending that New Zealand follow in the footsteps of other jurisdictions such as Ireland, Norway, California and New York City that have, or are introducing smokefree bars and restaurants.

“The future is smokefree. Smokefree hospitality venues are a win-win situation – the health of workers and clients will be protected. Bars and restaurants will have the opportunity to attract back the 75 percent of New Zealanders who don’t smoke.”

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