The Soap Box: Govt should put money where its mouth is and cut health spend on smokers

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Mon, 3 Apr 2017, 5:18AM
(Stock Xchng).
(Stock Xchng).

The Soap Box: Govt should put money where its mouth is and cut health spend on smokers

Author
Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Mon, 3 Apr 2017, 5:18AM

It was glamorised by Hollywood for years. It was the hip thing for the younger set to do. Restaurants and bars were like opium dens, a clear view from one side to the other was a rare thing.

One of my first after school jobs was working out the front of a barber shop which of course was a tobacco outlet. It wasn't unusual for the barber to have a fag hanging out his mouth as he practised his tonsorial artistry, which is actually a bit of an overstatement considering the universally common cut in those days was a short back and sides.

Cigarette smoking was a way of life but unknown to the great, smelly unwashed at the time it was laying the foundations to a lingering, painful death.

It's hardly surprising that people puffed away, oblivious to the damage they were causing themselves. They were products of the Second World War where smoking, and trading in them, was seen as patriotic. Through the ages doctors failed to appreciate the damage it was doing to health, even recommending it as an aid for calming nerves.  

Toward the end of the war the Health Department issued its first warning against smoking but it had little impact. By 1960 New Zealand had the sixth highest smoking rate in the OECD, after the likes of the United States and Australia.

It was only in the 70s that the real danger to health was becoming apparent with lung cancer increasing from 11 per 100,000 to 70 by 1977 for men and from two to 27 for women.

The drive is now on to have this country smoke free by 2025 - fat chance, but nevertheless it's better to have a target to increase awareness than none at all. The smoking trend in this country is fortunately on the downward slope, even for the most prolific smokers, 18 to 24 year olds, who've kicked the habit with 24 percent of them still smoking, down 4 percent on 10 years ago.

Government subsidised quit smoking aids are plentiful, from nicorette chewing gum to patches and are available for a nominal fee for up to two months.    They're now legalising E-cigarettes, and not before time, but for some unknown reason they're resisting a subsidy at this stage for the nicotine liquid that goes in them.

If the Government's really serious about making us healthier and cutting the health spend on smokers then it should put our money where its mouth is.