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Researchers find new ways to reduce smoking in NZ

Researchers find new ways to reduce smoking in NZ

AUCKLAND: May 27, 2016: It will take radical, fresh ideas and new technology to break some New Zealanders of their smoking habit and for smoking prevalence to be less than the Government’s goal of five percent in NZ by 2025.

That is the conclusion of Professor Chris Bullen of the University of Auckland’s National Institute of Health Innovation who has led the New Zealand Tobacco Control Research Tūranga, a five-year study programme by a multi-disciplinary network of researchers from across NZ.

“This is New Zealand’s largest-ever study into innovative ways to reduce smoking prevalence. The Tūranga’s brief was to test radical, fresh ideas to tackle the complex health challenge of tobacco smoking; despite decades of effort, many New Zealanders still smoke with huge risks to their health and the health of their whānau,” comments Prof Bullen.

The research network hosted a Symposium: The Tobacco Control ResearchTūranga – Ideas, Innovation and Impact in Auckland this week. The symposium brought together researchers from around NZ to showcase their projects supported by the Tūranga in the second half of its grant. The Tūranga is a five-million-dollar investment by the Health Research Council of NZ (HRC) and the Ministry of Health.

Keynote speakers at the symposium were Karen Evison from the Ministry of Health, Dr Murray Laugesen, and Prof Randolph Grace from the University of Canterbury.

In the 2013 Census 14 per cent of the total adult population - or 463,194 people - said they smoked. Around 5000 Kiwis die each year from disease caused by smoking tobacco.

Prof Bullen says the Tūranga programme has comprised some 31 separate research projects, some of which have already been completed and their findings published in leading journals.

“One way of coming up with new ideas is to draw in people from backgrounds other than the health professions to work with us - people such as engineers, lawyers, economists and computer scientists; we have found in the Tūranga that some of the most innovative ideas have come when people from different disciplines and perspectives work together.”

Among the projects showcased at the symposium was one by Te Pora Thomson-Evans of Tukana Teina Consulting. Thomson-Evans discussed the HAA trial (Herehere and Aukati). The project aims to reduce the prevalence and initiation of smoking among Māori through the revitalisation of tikanga aukati (imposed restriction) and the use of Tauhere Ringaringa "hand ties" as a Māori resource.

The very first pilot study of karakia and weaving as smoking cessation tools has now been completed with exceptional results.

One of the Tūranga lead researchers, Associate Professor Marewa Glover of Massey University says there is potential to explore more kaupapa Māoriapproaches to smoking cessation ie approaches that are grounded in Māoriknowledge and ways of doing things through whānau or groups.

Highlighting the importance of new technology to smoking cessation was a presentation by Dr Harvey Ho from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute team at the University of Auckland. Dr Ho talked about a pilot project that aims to bring the mother and the unborn baby closer.

The project team has developed a highly detailed 3D foetus model that can be changed to reflect the dynamic geometric features detected by 4D ultrasounds, so that the mother can see the effect smoking has on the foetus’ facial expressions. The software serves as a powerful educational tool.

University of Auckland researcher Dr Bryan Ruddy, presenting on behalf of Assoc Prof Andrew Taberner, talked about the development of a needle-free subcutaneous (through the skin) delivery of injected nicotine which aims to support smoking cessation. The device could deliver a cigarette-equivalent dose of nicotine through the skin in a jet of fluid.

The device delivers nicotine faster than a patch and, therefore, is better at satisfying cravings. The device has not yet been tested on humans and is still at the technology development stage. However, the researchers believe it could have application for community treatment centres, prisons or mental health facilities.

Other speakers at the symposium were: Dr George Laking, Prof Chris Bullen, Dr Marewa Glover, Emerald Murwai, Dr Vili Nosa, Dudley Gentles, Evelyn Hikuroa, Dr Penny Truman, James Greenwell, Trish Fraser, Prof Randolph Grace, Megan Tucker, Dr Merry Tawhai, Grace Wong and Phillipa Newton.


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