Date Published: 12 March 2009
World tobacco conference told Kiwi parents ‘not concerned' by smoking
New Zealand parents are underestimating the risks smoking poses to children, a University of Auckland researcher has told an international conference on tobacco control.
Dr Marewa Glover, director of the Auckland Tobacco Control Research Centre at the University of Auckland, spoke yesterday at the world’s largest tobacco control event – the 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Mumbai, India.
"Although smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in New Zealand, parents may not view it as a serious threat to their child’s well-being," said Dr Glover. Around 5,000 deaths each year in New Zealand are attributable to direct smoking or second hand smoke.
Dr Glover presented research showing that Maori, Pacific and European parents gave smoking a low ranking of fifth on a list of eight public health concerns, behind the drug ‘P’, bullying and violence, marijuana smoking and consumption of alcohol. Asian parents ranked smoking as the third most important health issue and Indian parents rated it as their fourth greatest concern.
Dr Glover noted that as well as underestimating the threat of smoking-related disease, the perception of smoking as a relatively minor problem discounts tobacco’s role as a ‘gateway’ or starter drug that often precedes use of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs – the drugs parents view as greater risks.
The findings presented at the conference are from the first two years of the three-year ‘Keeping Kids Smokefree’ project. Run by the Auckland Tobacco Control Research Centre, the project aims to reduce the number of parents smoking, increase the number of smokefree homes and reduce the number of children taking up smoking. It is currently underway in four South Auckland intermediate schools and involves students and their parents being surveyed on their views about tobacco at the beginning and end of the child’s time at intermediate school.