Sunday, July 22, 2012

'Not on my watch'--- here we go again.

Once again we hear our Prime Minister trying to limit discussion. Do you remember his statement that raising the retirement age would not occur on his watch? Well---- he’s doing it again. It seems that he is unwilling to press for more or tougher changes around the issue of tobacco.
Is this because he doesn’t want to upset his big business mates in the tobacco industry? --- the overseas ones of course or is it that he simply lacks the intestinal fortitude to make any real changes around this damaging issue.
Whiles thousands die and cost the taxpayer billions in ill-health and lost working hours, not to mention the economic costs, he prevaricates around an issue that will not go away. The Maori Party and others are right to push for more stringent laws.
Perhaps John Key sees the issue as too damaging politically. He wouldn’t be the only one to take that stance of course, but this is a time when we need to be courageous and even if we don’t get a complete ban on tobacco products--- well at least keep the debate going. That is what fuels the need to change; not ‘walking away’ and sticking one’s head in the sand.

Now's the time to back it up----'smoke-free New Zealand!

Now is the perfect time to build on the work that has been done--- making cigarettes invisible at the ‘point of sale.’ One now has to ask and will then be offered a ‘menu of prices.’ (Yeah right--- as if any smoker doesn’t know the prices and if they don’t then they will just assume that they are going up every year).
Over the last decade there has been quite an effort by successive governments to get the numbers of smokers on a downward track. We even see some politicians proposing a ‘smoke-free new Zealand. Whether we get to that point is doubtful in my lifetime, but it is a laudable goal.
Shopkeepers will no doubt be cursing the changes, because they will have to face the cynical and sometimes angry customers. I suspect some will try to circumvent the law but the hefty fines will keep that to a minimum. Like all changes, we eventually accept the inevitable.
Would this not be a good time to throw some more resources into smoking cessation programmes? From what I have seen it takes multiple efforts to wean someone off tobacco. If we take away the initial costs re the patches and other methods, then we eliminate another hurdle. Is it not better to spend the money now on those wishing to stop? (The evidence suggests that most smokers wish to cease their habit).
Combine publicity with support and be prepared to run cycles of these efforts (like every six months) and maybe we will see the results we desire. For those who say---‘what about the tourists? Will they not come if we ever go ‘smoke-free?’ I say---- too bad. I am sure that if we had a reputation as a smoke-free destination, then we may well see an increase in tourist numbers. Hey---why not advertise us as ‘clean and green and smoke-free?’ Perhaps we can even give them free patches, as long as they stay for a minimum period of time.
The ‘smoke-free sky’ is the limit.