Professor Janet Hoek and Professor Philip Gendall
The NZ Government’s recently released Standardised Packaging Regulations contain some important advances over Australia’s legislation, but they also miss opportunities to recognise tobacco industry innovations. This blog discusses changes that establish a new benchmark and why these are important, but also examines how the regulations could have gone further and suggests measures that other countries might consider including as they develop their standardised packaging policies.
Professor Janet Hoek, Professor Karine Gallopel-Morvan, Professor Richard Edwards, Professor Tony Blakely
New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 goal is now less than ten years away but we are unlikely to achieve this world-leading goal unless the Government introduces innovative new policies that reduce smoking prevalence (1). Existing measures have tackled different facets of tobacco marketing, with plain packaging reducing a potent form of tobacco marketing and excise tax increases making smoking less affordable. However, tobacco products themselves have received less attention. In this blog we outline findings from recent studies examining roll-your-own tobacco use and explore potential policy implications.
Roll-your-own tobacco (RYO) has increased in popularity, largely due to its cost advantages, which have persisted despite efforts to reduce differences in the excise tax on RYO tobacco and tailor made (TM) cigarettes (2). Many New Zealand smokers now use loose tobacco to make RYO cigarettes, which are typically around half to two-thirds the size of TM cigarettes (3,4). RYO use is higher among younger demographics, particularly young adults aged 20-24, where more than 60% smoke RYO, either exclusively (42%) or in conjunction with TM cigarettes (20%) (3). Among 25-45 year olds, RYO use (exclusive and with TM cigarettes) is 57%. RYO use is higher among Māori and NZ Europeans than among Pacific peoples (see figure below); people experiencing greater deprivation are also more likely to use RYO tobacco than smokers who experience less deprivation (3). Furthermore, New Zealand RYO smokers are also more likely than TM cigarette smokers to have co-morbidities such as mental health illnesses, illicit drug addictions, and risky drinking behaviours (5).
Professor Nick Wilson, Professor Janet Hoek, Frederieke Sanne van der Deen, Associate Professor George Thomson, Professor Richard Edwards
The NZ Ministry of Health is currently consulting on options around making nicotine-containing e-cigarettes available in NZ. Therefore, this Perspective Blog briefly examines possible pros and cons of two plausible licensed retail options: pharmacies and vape shops. It also highlights the need for a very well-considered approach, given consecutive NZ Governments’ poor track record in making policy to regulate addictive substances and reduce harm to public health.
Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Coral Gartner, Prof Richard Edwards
This blog considers recent studies in which the biomarker levels in e-cigarette users (vapers) are compared to those from tobacco smokers. The results are highly variable but all suggest lower levels of risk to vapers relative to tobacco smokers. Yet as the situation with vaping is very dynamic (new products, changing ways people vape) and there is no evidence yet about long-term effects of e-cigarette use on health outcomes, a lot more future research will be needed to get a reasonable understanding of the relative harms.
Lindsay Robertson, Janet Hoek, Richard Edwards and Louise Marsh*
Example of a tobacco free retailer in Northland (Source: Northern Advocate)
Two recent articles by Aspire2025 researchers have explored how tobacco sales in New Zealand could be more effectively regulated. The first examines licensing models that have been implemented overseas, while the second explores how provisions from the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 could inform tobacco supply policies (both published in the NZ Medical Journal, 1 April 2016). This blog overviews the findings in both articles and explains how stronger tobacco supply policies would contribute to the Government’s smokefree 2025 goal.