Going up in smoke


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One interesting consequence of the recent change of government in New Zealand was the outrage over health issues vented at the new coalition by some.

Why? Because the coalition opted to use its tax take on cigarettes for purposes other than protecting local citizens from the widely known downsides of smoking cigarettes.

I was part of a generation that considered smoking to be a perfectly acceptable pastime from teenage years on. And indeed, I was for many years a regular and often heavy smoker. For reasons I will go into below, I eventually managed to give up the habit.

But what annoyed me most back when I wrestled with controlling my smoking was that, despite occasionally giving up cigarettes, or cutting down consumption, I was always drawn back to it. Indeed, at one point I managed to give up cigarettes for 18 months, only to start smoking again after having just one cigarette.

A terrible toll

I once worked for two years for the World Health Organisation in Geneva in a department that, amongst other things, was heavily involved in ways to help smokers try and cut down and so reduce the terrible toll that cigarettes take on them.

I think it’s fair to say that smoking – and relapsing into bad habits – is a subject I know something about.

It was then something of a surprise to hear the outgoing Labour government patting itself on the back because it had reduced smoking amongst the young.

How was this done? Largely by persuading young smokers to switch from cigarettes to vaping. But the long-term health risks of vaping are not yet known, as the Asthma Foundation of NZ, amongst others, have pointed out.

Research so far has found that vaping and second-hand vaping can irritate the lungs, increase coughing and worsen symptoms of respiratory conditions like asthma, says the foundation.

And our experience of tobacco companies over the years has indicated that – as was the case with cigarettes – the companies are very aware of the addictive powers of nicotine. And they have proven through the decades to be remarkably deft at dodging criticism of the ill-health consequences of their products.

The tobacco giants were quick to appreciate that, as cigarette consumption slowly declined in most countries worldwide, vaping was perfectly placed to take over. And, of course, vapes can contain significant quantities of addictive nicotine.

The cute-looking packaging and attractive sounding names and flavours of vapes in a variety of colours are evidently very popular with young consumers.

Our schools are already, according to multiple news reports, rife with conspicuous consumption of vape products.

My own experience, for what it’s worth, is that the only way to escape from smoking, once you’ve decided to stop, is to never succumb to the “just the one for old time’s sake” justification.

Sadly, nicotine is a perniciously subtle and addictive drug.

More from David Porter: The heat is rising

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David Porter
David Porter
THE PORTER REPORT - A monthly update on the business world from David Porter

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