Editorial: Little more to gain from hitting smokers

WARWICK RASMUSSEN DEPUTY EDITOR
Last updated 13:00 24/07/2012

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OPINION: Where to next for cigarettes in New Zealand?

As of yesterday it was illegal to have them and their associated products on display at any store. They now have to be kept in label-less cabinets away from public view.

Smoking is banned in many places, including offices, hospitals, aeroplanes and pubs and clubs. Smokers are now left to huddle in small groups outside buildings, made to feel guilty for their five-minute puff. We have hideous images of everything from diseased lungs and hearts to infected eyeballs on packaging.

The price of cigarettes and tobacco is constantly going up, with the financial squeeze forcing more and more people to stop the habit.

But where does heavy regulation end and personal responsibility kick in?

It would be almost impossible to find someone who genuinely did not know that smoking was harmful, and in many cases fatal.

There is no denying the science.

Unless this country is serious about pursuing a smoking ban, as the Maori Party has suggested, perhaps it is time that we left smokers alone.

It's right that smoking has been marginalised and almost stigmatised. It is heavily pushed as being an unhealthy and uncool to do, yet people still do it.

We may have reached the point where we've got about as much traction as we can and maybe it's time we focused time, energy and money on other aspects of public health.

That's not to say we should ease up on smoking and the massive harm it does, but are we still getting bang from our buck by hammering the same group of people, some of whom the message will never get through to?

Sadly, smoking is more than likely here to stay. The legal minefield of trying to get a ban has been foreshadowed, with tobacco companies already indicating that it could breach the fair trading laws.

Then there's the issue of tobacco going on the black market. It's not as if banning smoking will stop people smoking. It will only make them criminals.

Is that the road we want to head down as a country, or is it time to focus our energy somewhere else?

ONE MORE THING

It is possible for nice things to come out of nasty experiences. Last week we reported the theft of an electronic voicebox used by Palmerston North teen Rhys Bycroft, who lives with cerebral palsy. As despicable as the theft was, there was also a strong response from our readers to Rhys' situation and plenty of support offered. To this day, though, the voicebox has not been returned. If you can help the police in any way with this investigation, call the Palmerston North station on 351 3600.

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- Manawatu Standard

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