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Ministry Wrong To See Future In GE Cigarettes

There is concern that The Ministry of Health has been hoodwinked into promoting Genetic Engineering of tobacco as a credible option towards a Smoke Free Aotearoa.

Submissions on the Smoke Free 2025 consultation document have closed, and it is positive to see a 40% drop in people smoking cigarettes in the last 5 years.

However, in a press release BioTech NZ say that the Ministry of Health is supporting Genetic Engineering of tobacco plants as a vital solution to reaching the 2025 goal. [1]

However, the Genetic Engineering (GE) of tobacco for low nicotine was not mentioned in the consultation document [2] and there is concern that backroom discussions are now being publicised by BioTech NZ as having Ministry of Health commitment. The US Corporation 22 Century is ready to license the supply of GE tobacco NZ needs. [3]

"It is disingenuous of the Ministry of Health and the Minister to discuss privately with the Biotech industry and not consult with the public on this," said Claire Bleakley, president of GE-Free NZ.

“Private discussions with interested US parties and BioTech NZ is undemocratic and undermines public confidence when it results in such nonsensical ideas that do not achieve the goal of smoke free by 2025.”

BioTech NZ claim Genetic Engineering of tobacco is vital because "strong evidence indicates that removing the nicotine from tobacco makes it unattractive to many smokers".

"The proposal is clearly misguided and seems more about promoting Genetic Engineering than smoking prevention," said Jon Carapiet. spokesman for GE-Free NZ.

"It is not logical to be promoting smoking at all."

Genetic Engineering of tobacco to produce nicotine-free cigarettes has not been tested for safety and pose the same dangers as normal cigarettes. It is not just the nicotine but the flavours, sugars and additives to make the cigarette burn that release toxic particulates into the lungs.

A four-year study by Cummings and Colleagues (2006) of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that “smokers… of light or ultra light cigarettes receives the same amount of tar and nicotine as a smoker of regular cigarettes.” [4]

Smoking is dangerous regardless of what it is that is being inhaled. Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer and lung disease as the heat and toxins from the smoke destroys the delicate lung tissue. [5]

"It is short sighted of the Ministry to promote smoking in any form especially smoking cigarettes sourced from the unknown toxic effects of Genetically Engineered tobacco,” said Claire Bleakley.


[1] https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/GE2106/S00056/nz-should-move-to-low-nicotine-cigarettes-biotechnz-says.htm

[2] https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/proposals-smokefree-aotearoa-2025-action-plan

[3] https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2021/04/15/2211315/0/en/22nd-Century-Stands-Fully-Prepared-to-Enable-New-Zealand-Proposal-to-Advance-Nationwide-Smoke-Free-Action-Plan.html

[4] Four-Year Survey Shows Cigarette Smokers Unaware of Health Risks of Low Tar and Nicotine Cigarettes https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2006/08/four-year-survey-shows-cigarette-smokers-unaware-of-health-risks.html

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2647656/

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