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Nurses could help people quit smoking, committee told

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, July 1 NZPA - A parliamentary inquiry into smoking and the tobacco industry has been told nurses should be used as frontline troops to help people kick the habit.

Smokefree Nurses Aotearoa/New Zealand (SNANZ) yesterday told the Maori affairs select committee 40,000 nurses made up the country's largest health workforce.

"There is approximately one actively working nurse for every 14 smokers," said SNANZ director Grace Wong.

"We believe the strength of the nursing workforce lies in our almost untapped potential to support cessation for the 600,000 New Zealanders who smoke."

Ms Wong said nurses worked in homes, schools, prisons, workplaces, marae, community clincs, doctors' surgeries and hospitals, and were trusted by the public.

Maori nurses were particularly well-placed to be smokefree role models and leaders in their own communities, Ms Wong said, although 31 percent of the 3000 Maori nurses smoked themselves.

"Unsurprisingly, those who smoke find it hard to advise patients who smoke to quit," she said.

"It's a major barrier to enlisting the largest Maori health workforce to capitalise on their many opportunities to help patients and whanau to stop smoking."

At yesterday's hearing a former smoker stole the show by producing his diseased heart and passing it around in a plastic bag.

Mohi Waihi told the committee he started smoking when he was 19, had five heart attacks and only stopped when he had a heart transplant in 2005.

That was just before executives from tobacco company Philip Morris gave evidence.

They said they accepted smoking caused disease and death but it was a legal product and there was a demand for it.

MP Hone Harawira asked if they or the company accepted responsibility for the 5000 deaths a year the product caused in New Zealand.

"Obviously any loss, any illness, is upsetting and I lost two grandparents to smoking-related illness," said general manager Martin Inkster.

He said he didn't smoke "because it's harmful and I don't like it".

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