Stats show Quitline helping Māori more Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Source: Radio New Zealand, 22 August 2017

A study has found the Quitline smoking service is having three times greater health benefits for Māori than non-Māori.

The Ministry of Social Development's social report in 2016 showed Māori had the highest proportion of smokers of any ethnic group.

It showed 40 percent of Māori adults were smokers, compared with 17 percent of Pākehā and just 7 percent of people of Asian descent.

However, University of Otago researcher Nick Wilson said a new study showed the Quitline service had helped to reduce health inequities for Māori.

He said Māori had three times greater per captia health gains from the service compared to non-Māori.

"Quitline has worked to make itself culturally appropriate and has Māori staff and responders who can speak te reo."

"In fact, Māori smokers have higher rates of using Quitline than non-Māori."

Mr Wilson said a year of running Quitline had produced just over 4000 extra years of healthy life across the entire population.

"The reality is probably even more favourable for health gain since the modelling only covered the 16 most important tobacco-related diseases, and many more diseases are related to smoking."

He said about 15 percent of the entire New Zealand population were smokers, but this number was declining each year.

"If the government was bold and wanted to really make progress in this area it would actually do more to increase tobacco tax and develop tobacco-endgame interventions."

He said the speed at which the smoking prevalence is going down was not fast enough to get to the 2025 goal with the current range of measures in place.

He also believed the goal of seeing less than 5 percent of the population smoking could be achieved if there was more urgency from the government.

"In some areas we are really falling behind other countries - there are many places in the world that have laws to ban smoking in cars with children and the government has repeatedly failed to introduce those types of obvious ways to protect child health.

"Many countries have much better outdoor smokefree areas than New Zealand.

"In the United States you can't smoke in the outside eating area of a bar or a restaurant, whereas in New Zeland that is still a serious place where exposure to secondhand smoking occurs."

Mr Wilson said some of these measures might become more effective as e-cigarettes became a more viable alternative, particularly if higher tobacco taxes made e-cigarettes a far cheaper option.