Will regular tobacco tax increases get NZ to the tobacco endgame?

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 1 Comment

Associate Professor Nick Wilson, Dr Linda Cobiac, Professor Tony Blakely

Image from a World Health Organization poster

Image from a World Health Organization poster

In a modelling study we just published in the international journal Tobacco Control, we examined the potential role of increasing tobacco tax for achieving an end to the tobacco epidemic in NZ. The bottom line is that tax rises could play an important role but other strategies will almost certainly be required if the Government’s smokefree goal is to be achieved by 2025. In this blog we discuss some of the modelling results and also the other policy options that could be explored.

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The humility of being second to Australia in cancer mortality

Friday, August 15th, 2014 | TONY BLAKELY | No Comments

Professor Tony Blakely, Assoc Professor Diana Sarfati

There is nothing like being second to Australia to galvanize angst and consternation among Kiwis. Today Alafeishat and colleagues have published a paper in the NZ Medical Journal showing that New Zealand has higher death rates from cancer than Australia that cannot be explained by higher incidence for most sites. This suggests that there are differences in cancer survival, which appear to be particularly marked for bowel cancer, and for breast cancer for women. This is important, highlighting room to improve in our health sector. This blog we canvass how bad (or good) the situation really is, the problems and possible sources of error comparing survival across the ditch (it is not easy to do), and we conclude with policy implications. Continue reading

That old chestnut again – does any alcohol consumption reduce cardiovascular disease risk? More evidence for “no”.

Monday, August 11th, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 3 Comments

Professor Tony Blakely, Associate Professor Nick Wilson, Professor John Attia (University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute, Australia)

Red wine question markMany observational studies suggest that moderate alcohol consumption reduces cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. The so-called J-shaped curve. We summarised the ‘state of play’ on this topic at PHE Blog in early 2014. In the last few weeks a large ‘Mendelian randomisation’ study (like a genetically determined RCT of alcohol consumption – a study design with much potential for identifying causal (as opposed to confounded) associations) has been published suggesting that any alcohol consumption increases CVD. If true, this means the overall health harm from alcohol consumption in our society is even higher than currently thought. If so it would make cost-effective interventions such as alcohol taxation even more justified.

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Would reducing the number of tobacco retail outlets achieve the Smokefree 2025 goal?

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Kate Sloane | No Comments

Dr Amber L. Pearson, Frederieke S. van der Deen, Associate Professor Nick Wilson

Figure 1. Map of current tobacco retailers in New Zealand (n=6000)

Figure 1. Map of current tobacco retailers in New Zealand (n=6000)

How can we achieve the 2025 goal of a smokefree nation? The best approach to this tobacco endgame, as it is often called, is unclear. Options include ongoing tobacco tax rises, a sinking lid on tobacco imports, denicotinisation of tobacco products, etc. In this blog we consider the option of reducing the number of tobacco retail outlets – leaning on a study we have just published. There are no observational studies, let alone randomised trials, of nation-wide retail outlet reductions. One way to address this ‘evidence gap’ is through modelling studies that anticipate how smoking behaviour may change due to increasing cost of tobacco through travel time and costs – an economic methodology. There is a lot of uncertainty around our results, but they do suggest that an outlet reduction strategy would probably help nudge the country towards the NZ Government’s smokefree goal. But our modelling also suggests tobacco outlet reduction is far from a panacea – under the assumptions we used. Therefore, outlet reduction would probably have to be but one component of an overall programme of activity to achieve the 2025 goal.

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Will the Health Star Rating labels improve people’s diets?

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 | Kate Sloane | 1 Comment

Dr Ninya Maubach (ninya.maubach@otago.ac.nz)

Consumers have a right to have informative yet easy-to-use nutrition labelling, and effective labelling is one tool to help control the epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Everyone agrees that on its own, the current Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) used in NZ does not achieve the goal of facilitating healthier food choices. But suggestions around more consumer-friendly front-of-pack labels have been fiercely contested by industry and health stakeholders – until now, it seems. Is the new Health Star Rating label truly a win-win consensus, or might too much have been given away to reach a compromise?

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