Perfect Time For Govt To Reignite Campaign To Quit Smoking
“With so many Kiwis now keen to quit smoking, the Government needs to press play on its long-promised public awareness campaign to encourage and support smokers to switch to vaping. World Smokefree Day this Sunday provides the perfect platform,” says Ben Pryor, Co-director of Vapo and Alt New Zealand.
The Government’s Health Promotion Agency (HPA) announced last August that a ‘mass media Vape to Quit campaign’ would go live on 13 October 2019, but it never happened. This followed the HPA launching its Vaping Facts website in June last year, which attracted over 50,000 visitors in its first three months, but all promotion was then put on hold.
Mr Pryor, who co-owns the largest Kiwi-owned vape company with Jonathan Devery, is now calling on the Government to make the most of this Covid-19 environment and instruct the HPA to reignite its ‘Vape to Quit’ campaign launched by Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa last year.
“Many people assume the added stress of the past two months would’ve seen more Kiwis reaching for cigarettes, but that’s not our experience nor is it others overseas. People are desperate to quit, but they need help,” he says.
His comments follow a study in the UK showing more than 300,000 Britons may have quit smoking in recent months. A further 550,000 in the UK have tried to quit, while 2.4 million have cut down.
“Plenty of smokers have been using this time to quit or at least try. As well as improving their own health, smokers have been more conscious of the second-hand effects of smoking on others in their bubble. Then there’s the huge monetary cost of cigarettes with many households now under growing financial pressure,” he says.
Stats NZ reports the average price of a pack of 25 cigarettes was $41.89 in March, with one cigarette now costing $1.70 compared to 54 cents 10 years ago.
“Our call centre is getting a record number of enquiries from smokers keen to quit. Our online sales for Vapo Haiz and Alt starter kits grew by a staggering 30% in the past two months. Now, with our Vapo shops open, we’re seeing more smokers coming off the street and asking questions about vaping as a much safer and cheaper alternative.”
Mr Pryor says the lockdowns, working from home, and social distancing provide a once-in-a-lifetime window of opportunity for smokers to quit tobacco, with ‘smoko breaks’ disrupted and social activities limited helping people to break old habits.
“Wouldn’t it be great if one result from all this upheaval was if New Zealand’s 12.5% overall smoking rate fell to single figures? That would be a government statistic worth celebrating and one they should now invest in.
Following Parliament passing the Smoke-free Environments (Prohibiting Smoking in Motor Vehicles Carrying Children) Amendment Bill this week, Ms Salesa has announced the HPA will run an education campaign about the new rules. Mr Pryor says investing in quit smoking campaigns should also a priority for this Government.
“World Smokefree Day on 31 May would be the perfect time for the Government to announce it was boosting its commitment to encourage more smokers to quit via vaping – the most effective smoking cessation tool in world history,” says Ben Pryor.