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International Experts Say Abandoning Denicotinised Cigarettes Will Cost Lives

International experts in nicotine addiction and tobacco regulation say abandoning denicotinised cigarettes in the repeal of the smokefree legislation in Aotearoa New Zealand will cost lives.

In the latest Briefing from the Public Health Communication Centre, Professor Eric Donny from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina and Professor Dorothy Hatsukami from the University of Minnesota lay out the public health benefits of denicotinising cigarettes.

“NZ stands at the forefront of implementing world-leading ‘endgame’ actions with the potential for a ripple effect to greatly reduce the devastation caused by smoking globally.” says Professor Donny. “At the centre of the NZ plan is denicotinisation – rendering cigarettes minimally or non-addictive by dramatically reducing their nicotine content.”

Professor Donny says the public health benefit of denicotinising cigarettes is likely to be profound. “Repealing this measure risks seeing around 5000 New Zealanders continue to die every year from smoking and a persistence of associated health inequities.”

Professor Donny points out that the tobacco industry has leveraged the addictive power of nicotine by researching and manipulating nicotine content and delivery. “Research shows that substantially reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes results in decreased smoking, exposure to toxicants, satisfaction with smoking, and dependence, while helping people quit. Modelling studies also show denicotinisation would result in people living longer and the greatest benefits will likely occur among populations with high smoking rates such as Māori.”

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Some concern has been raised by opponents that denicotinisation will result in people smoking more to maintain their nicotine intake, but Professor Donny says that is not supported by the data. “Evidence from thousands of participants in clinical trials suggests that people smoke less, not more, when switched to denicotinised cigarettes and, consequently, are exposed to fewer toxicants.”

Professor Donny believes if fully reinstating the measures included in the 2022 Smokefree legislation is not feasible, the Government should be encouraged to consider other courses of action that allow denicotinisation to proceed.

For comment: Professor Eric Donny is available from 11.30am (5.30 EST) on Friday 23 February on 001 412-512-6727. Eric Christian Donny

Any other queries: PHCC Communications Lead – Adele Broadbent 027 576 4644

The Public Health Communication Centre (PHCC) is an independently funded organisation dedicated to increasing the reach and impact of public health research in Aotearoa New Zealand. We work with researchers, journalists, and policymakers to ensure evidence is clearly communicated and accessible. We regularly publish public health expert commentary and analysis from across Aotearoa in The Briefing.

PHCC is hosted by the Department of Public Health at University of Otago, Wellington.

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