Public Health Expert

Reducing tobacco retail availability: counterarguments to industry claims - Public Health Expert

May 10, 2021

Lindsay Robertson, Janet Hoek, Richard Edwards, George Thomson, Louise Marsh (*Author details) The NZ Government’s Discussion Document outlines an Action Plan for the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal and proposes substantially reducing the number of retailers selling tobacco. In this blog, we examine arguments that interest groups have advanced to oppose these proposals and review the evidence relating to those claims. We find that predictions of dire economic consequences for small retailers are not consistent with independent research evidence and may serve to advance tobacco companies’ interests.   Introduction Achieving a substantial reduction in the number of outlets selling tobacco is likely to improve population health and decrease health inequities by reducing smoking uptake and creating environments that support quitting (see earlier blog here). The Government’s proposals aim to address the glaring anomaly that allows a consumer … Read More

Reducing tobacco retail availability: how could this be achieved and what evidence supports the NZ Government’s proposals? - Public Health Expert

May 06, 2021

Lindsay Robertson, Janet Hoek, Richard Edwards, Frederieke Petrović-van der Deen, George Thomson, Louise Marsh (*Author details) The NZ Government has published a Discussion Document outlining an Action Plan for the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal. This blog is one of a series examining key aspects of the plan to help inform the debate and submissions. Here we examine the proposals to reduce the retail availability of tobacco products and find these have a good evidence base. Along with additional measures outlined in the proposals, reducing tobacco retail availability could allow NZ to realise the large health gains, cost-savings, and health equity-benefits of reaching the Smokefree goal. In a separate blog that will be published soon, we examine arguments opposing proposals to reduce tobacco availability, and review the evidence on which these arguments draw.   Introduction Easier access to tobacco retailers … Read More

Improving NZ Government Communication about COVID-19: Five Suggestions Including a Proposal for Depoliticisation - Public Health Expert

May 03, 2021

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Leah Grout, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig The high quality communication by the NZ Government for much of the COVID-19 pandemic has been remarked on. But given that the pandemic situation is very far from over, in this blog we consider five areas in which potential improvements could be made. Potentially the most important of these would be to further depoliticise the COVID-19 response.   Overall, Aotearoa NZ has done very well with its COVID-19 pandemic response and it is typically ranked in the top few performing countries.1 2 NZ’s economic indicators, such as GDP impacts, also compare favourably to other countries using the less successful “suppression” strategy against the pandemic.3 4 Furthermore, the communication by leaders such as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been noted for its level of engagement and high quality both … Read More

Reducing nicotine in smoked tobacco products: A pivotal feature of the proposals for achieving Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 - Public Health Expert

Apr 30, 2021

Richard Edwards, Janet Hoek, Nick Wilson, Chris Bullen * The NZ Government has published a discussion document outlining an Action Plan for the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal and has invited submissions on its proposals. This blog is one of a series examining key aspects of the plan to help inform the debate and submissions. Here we examine the proposal to reduce the nicotine in smoked tobacco products to very low levels. We conclude this strategy is likely to have a profound impact on smoking prevalence and, if implemented as part of a comprehensive plan, gives a realistic prospect of achieving a Smokefree Aotearoa.   Why reduce nicotine to very low levels? The action plan proposes reducing nicotine in smoked tobacco products to very low levels and mandating that these are the only smoked tobacco products available for sale in … Read More

Smokefree outdoor areas: A missing part of Government’s new Smokefree 2025 proposals - Public Health Expert

Apr 22, 2021

George Thomson, Nick Wilson (ASPIRE2025) Smokefree outdoor areas are not ‘business-as-usual’ for New Zealand. Current efforts for such areas are rarely backed by law. Smokers trying to quit need places where being smokefree is normal, and in particular, they need smokefree outdoor hospitality areas. Aotearoa is far behind many jurisdictions in helping smokers in this way. There is strong public support for major changes, including for smokefree building entrances and outdoor dining. Queensland State Government 2008 smokefree campaign logo Great NZ Government Smokefree 2025 proposals, but needing a vital addition The NZ Government is to be congratulated with its recent proposals for achieving the Smokefree 2025 Goal,1 especially with those for markedly reducing retail outlets and removing nicotine to make cigarettes non-addictive.2 If effectively implemented, these proposals could lead to major health gains, health system cost savings and reducing … Read More

Progress towards a Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan: Congratulations to the Government - Public Health Expert

Apr 16, 2021

Richard Edwards, Janet Hoek, Anaru Waa, George Thomson, Nick Wilson (author details*) We congratulate the NZ Government on its proposed Action Plan for the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 goal. Here we examine the evidence for three key ideas outlined in the plan: permitting tobacco products to be sold in only a small number of stores; reducing the nicotine in tobacco products to very low levels; and restricting the legal sale of tobacco products to people born before a certain fixed year (the “smokefree generation” idea). Given sufficient political and public support, and effective implementation, New Zealand is poised to lead the world in tobacco control. The Government’s “Proposals for a Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan: Discussion Document” represents a bold and innovative approach informed by sound logic and research findings from Aotearoa and internationally. If adopted and implemented … Read More

More Evidence that Elimination is the Best COVID-19 Control Strategy for Health and the Economy - Public Health Expert

Apr 12, 2021

Prof Nick Wilson, Dr Jennifer Summers, Prof Michael Baker In this blog we briefly consider a new Report from a European think tank that aims to identify an optimal COVID-19 response strategy. It considers mortality data, GDP impacts, and mobility data and suggests that COVID-19 elimination appears to be superior to mitigation/suppression strategies in health and economic terms. Nevertheless, more data and a longer-term perspective is needed, before we can be really certain about the relative benefits and costs of different COVID-19 control strategies. The likely health and economic benefits of using an elimination strategy (as NZ has done), relative to mitigation/suppression strategies have previously been reported on by some of us in a blog [1] and in the British Medical Journal [2]. The ability of Australia and NZ to resume quarantine-free travel in mid-April is another sign of the … Read More

Charting our way back to normal - Public Health Expert

Apr 08, 2021

By Professor Tony Blakely, Dr Tim Wilson, Luke Thorburn and Professor Nathan Grills, University of Melbourne A new web tool, COVID-19 Pandemic Trade-offs, allows people to weigh the costs and benefits of different policy responses as Australia rolls out vaccines and considers opening borders. See here for an associated explanatory video. Article reproduced with permission from Pursuit  The burning COVID-19 question this year is – “When can we get back to normal?” Or more pessimistically, “Will we ever get back to normal?” The honest answer is we do not know, and only time will tell. Moreover, we are privileged in Australasia to have little-to-zero community transmission, giving us some space to learn from other countries as they aggressively roll out emergency vaccination programs. However, keeping our borders closed to the world indefinitely is not feasible and we need … Read More

To ensure success of the trans-Tasman travel “green zone”, we need to reduce system failures at the NZ border - Public Health Expert

Mar 30, 2021

Dr Leah Grout, Dr Jennifer Summers, Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Prof Michael Baker, Prof Nick Wilson While succeeding very well with its elimination strategy, NZ still does not have optimal border control. We find since July 2020 there have been 13 identified border failures and at least 6 internal MIQ facility failures. The forthcoming quarantine-free “green zone” between NZ and Australia provides an opportunity for NZ to benchmark its MIQ/border management policies and practices with Australian States and Territories to identify improvements in both countries. Overall, Aotearoa NZ has done very well with its COVID-19 pandemic response. NZ is ranked first in the world by the Lowy Institute in Australia [1] and its economic indicators, such as GDP impacts, also compare favourably to countries using a “suppression” strategy against the pandemic [2]. A recent favourable development has been the roll-out of … Read More

Expansion of “green zones” may provide a chance for the global eradication of COVID-19 - Public Health Expert

Mar 18, 2021

Nick Wilson, Matt Boyd, Osman D Mansoor, Louise Delany, Michael G Baker With effective vaccines for COVID-19 comes the potential for disease eradication (elimination at the global level). Here we consider the advantages and the challenges, but ultimately suggest consideration of progressive expansion of “green zones” towards a target of COVID-19 eradication. Even if eradication is not achieved, establishing and maintaining “green zones” with no local spread will have many medium term benefits by liberalising travel between “green zone” countries (eg, between NZ and Australia).   The COVID-19 pandemic response led to two unexpected major advances. Perhaps most surprisingly, was that traditional public health and social measures (PHSMs) could stop the spread of a respiratory virus despite about half of spread being from those without symptoms. The virus has been eliminated by these PHSMs in large parts of the globe, … Read More