February 2007 For printer friendly version click on www.endsmoking.org.nz/fact20Fe06.pdf

Fact sheet

 Nicotine and tobacco products vary in risk.

  • The risk for cigarette smokers of dying early is over three times the risk of not smoking at all. Bjartveit 2005
  • The risk of taking snuff regularly is about 5% of the risk of cigarette smoking. Levy 2004
  • The risk of taking snuff is less than the risk of living with a smoker (and breathing their smoke).
  • The extra risk of early death or hospitalization from using nicotine gum for five years is zero. Murray 1996

Cigarette smoking risks

  • Continuing to smoke cigarettes past age 35 years of age kills one in two smokers before their time. Doll 1994
  • Cigarettes have killed 190,000 New Zealanders since 1950. Peto 2004
  • Cigarette smoking is killing over 4000 New Zealanders per year. NZ MoH
  • Cigarette smoking is killing 12 New Zealanders per day. NZ MoH

Current progress in reducing the percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes

  • In 2006, 21% of New Zealand adults smoked. NZ Census
  • The percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes is reducing by 1% per year, or by 0.3 percentage points per year Based on NZ MoH, 1990-2004
  • At this rate it will take 60-100 years to end smoking, and longer in Maori.

Most things short of banning cigarette sales have already been done

  • Cigarette smokers cannot light up indoors in public spaces.
  • Cigarettes cannot be advertised.
  • In many supermarkets cigarettes for sale are already out of sight.

        Graphic warnings are expected on cigarette packets by 2008.

What is missing is a policy package designed to end the sale of cigarettes. Smoking is a relapsing drug addiction. Any policy package should include reduction of cigarette nicotine, and switching from cigarettes to smokeless products for maintaining the nicotine addiction.

Nicotine is a drug problem

Policy fix

In cigarette smoke, the toxic smoke gases (carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide etc) are mixed up with the addictive nicotine (which gives the pleasurable nicotine hit).


Smoke and its toxic gases is not the only delivery method for nicotine. Nicotine can be absorbed rapidly from mouth or nose. Before any cigarette sales ban, many smokers will seek out more effective smokeless nicotine products if these are on sale. Government can support their research and development.

Addiction too strong for many smokers. All cigarette brands contain more nicotine than necessary, so that smokers who cut down still stay hooked.

Regulation to reduce nicotine content of cigarettes. Nicotine content of cigarettes can be measured by bench-top test. Nicotine content can be gradually reduced, evenly across all brands.



Acknowledgment that smoking is a drug problem. Once smokers know they need and can buy other kinds of nicotine in place of cigarettes, they could avoid most of the health risks from smoking.

Alternative nicotine products. Research and development is needed to bring more effective nicotine products to market. At present smokers have little choice.

Cigarette manufacturers monopolise the delivery of nicotine to NZ addicts. Nearly 99% of nicotine is sold as cigarettes, - the most dangerous way for addicts to obtain nicotine.

In Sweden only half the nicotine comes from cigarettes. More Swedish men snuff than smoke. A lifting of the sales ban on oral snuff, which is 95% less dangerous than cigarettes, could lower NZ mortality.

Perpetuation of smoking from one generation to the next. Unchallenged legal sale. As long as cigarettes are on sale to adults, adolescents can obtain cigarettes and become addicted to obtaining a nicotine fix from inhalation of cigarette smoke – and another generation is hooked, often for life.

Ban cigarette sales to adults. As tobacco is not grown commercially, and all tobacco for making cigarettes is imported, as only one cigarette factory remains after 2006, and border control is efficient, a law to stop tobacco manufacture and sales will be effective.

Need for a group to champion the end of cigarette sales. Health groups have been afraid to support a ban on sale for fear of a prohibition label. Meantime, cigarettes continue to kill 4000 people p.a.

SmokeLess New Zealand will act as a catalyst for societal support to end cigarette sales, while remaining open as to exactly what supporting policies will be needed.

No other country has done it before. Where do we look for proof that it can be done?

Proof of concept - Sweden shows that smoking can be beaten. It has used smokeless to combat smoking. Sweden has the lowest rates of smoking among Western countries, and the lowest rate of lung cancer. The New Zealand solution may benefit from allowing the sale of Swedish moist oral snuff (snus) to increase smokers’ choices and success in quitting.


  Dr Murray Laugesen QSO chair; Prof Ross McCormick, Sir John Scott KBE, Trish Fraser MPH, Dr Marewa Glover, Trustees

Making it easier to quit smoking for good 2009 End Smoking NZ