New Zealand should switch to low-nicotine cigarettes, says BiotechNZ

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As the Ministry of Health moves towards a smoke-free Aotearoa by 2025, genetic engineering and genetic technologies for low-nicotine cigarettes could play a major role in ensuring success, according to a prominent biotechnology expert.

The government set a target in 2011 for less than five percent of New Zealanders to be smokers by 2025. Almost 85 percent of New Zealanders are currently smoke-free.

Several techniques are mentioned in the ministry’s Aotearoa 2025 smoke-free action plan. But only genetic engineering and technologies provide a way to produce ultra-low nicotine tobacco on the scale needed to break the nicotine addiction cycle, said BiotechNZ executive director Dr Zahra Champion.

“BiotechNZ applauds the Department of Health for highlighting genetic engineering as a method to reduce nicotine in the 2025 plan.

“Nicotine is highly addictive and national and international research shows ultra-low nicotine tobacco as a way to reduce smoking to achieve smoke-free Aotearoa 2025.

“Specialty tobacco crops should be grown here in New Zealand, rather than imported. This not only responds to Aotearoa-New Zealand’s smoke-free transition, but also exports to other countries to help them achieve a smoke-free world.

“With the Associate Minister of Health, Dr Ayesha Verrall, completing her doctorate in tuberculosis epidemiology At the University of Otago, we look forward to the scientific and evidence-based approach to this major problem facing New Zealand. “

Strong evidence indicates that removing nicotine from tobacco makes it unattractive to many smokers.

Dr Champion says smoking is the leading cause of premature death and ill health in New Zealand. It is estimated that 4,500 New Zealanders die from smoking-related illnesses each year.

“The health effects of smoking include lung cancer, respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease,” she says.

“Tobacco-related diseases disproportionately affect Maori and Pacific peoples and contribute to significant health inequalities. Maori women have one of the highest lung cancer death rates in the world.

“Smoking is not only harmful, it is also highly addictive due to the effects of nicotine. The government collects approximately $ 2.1 billion in excise taxes each year on tobacco.

“We believe that denicoting cigarettes could significantly reduce the appeal of cigarettes to current smokers.

“We know there is an illegal tobacco market in New Zealand. Previous tax increases may have contributed to the increase in contraband tobacco.

“It is likely that the proposed measures will increase compliance and enforcement requirements for smoked tobacco products imported illegally. “

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