Date Published: 6 April 2009
Face the Facts highlights tragedy of tobacco deaths
Oncologist David Hamilton says it's a tragedy that 5000 New Zealanders die each year because of tobacco use.
Speaking in support of the new smokefree education approach Face the Facts, Dr Hamilton says people have difficulty comprehending such a large number of needless deaths.
?Five thousand people dying each year from tobacco use is the equivalent of losing a town about the size of Kaitaia or Alexandra. It's 14 passenger-laden 747s crashing each year, with full loss of life.
Unnecessary suffering and loss of life on this scale is terrible ? especially as the cause of these deaths can be avoided.?
Dr Hamilton, who works at Wellington Hospital, says he loses patients every week ? sometimes several a week ? to smoking-related cancers.
?I've seen patients with lung cancer aged from in their 20's up to their 90's. Most patients with smoking-related cancers are 40 upwards ? people who should still have decades of life left, but instead face leaving behind friends and family, much too early.?
Face the Facts, developed by the Health Sponsorship Council and the Ministry of Health, presents six stark facts about smoking:
* 5000 New Zealanders die annually from smoking.
* All cigarettes are deadly, no matter how they are packaged or described.
* Nicotine replacement therapy is safe and doubles your chance of quitting.
* Kids who have a parent who smokes are three times more likely to become smokers.
* Smoking robs your loved ones of 15 years of your life.
* Roll your own cigarettes are just as deadly as tailor made cigarettes.
It has the support of prominent health groups including the Cancer Society, Heart Foundation, Stroke Foundation, New Zealand Medical Association, Asthma and Respiratory Foundation, Plunket, and Barnardos.
Smoking cessation practitioner Desley Austen works for Te Hauora O Te Hiku O Te Ika, a Northland-based Maori health provider. Three years ago Desley lost a lifelong friend to cancer. She was just 50.
When her friend was diagnosed with lung cancer, Desley says she was devastated.
?We'd known each other since primary school. At first I didn't want to accept it but then it finally sunk in that I was going to lose her.?
Even on her deathbed, Desley says her friend, who'd smoked for 40 years, was still trying to give up. Her friend knew it was too late for her but she was trying to send a message to her two sons who smoked.
?She was trying to be a good role model for her children. She was saying, I'm dying of cancer and I don't want this to happen to you.?
Desley says she has a lot of anger toward the tobacco industry. She believes they are exploiting her community and taking sons, husbands, fathers, mothers and sisters in the prime of life.
Nichola Te Kiri watched her father Broncho die from emphysema ? a death his doctor says was a direct result of smoking. One of Nichola's most vivid childhood memories was going to the dairy for her dad's smokes.
?I would even take the plastic off, open the packet and remove the silver top for him.?
That pack-a-day habit finally took its toll. When he was 46, Broncho gathered his family together to tell them he was sick. A few years later, he died ? at the age of 49.
Oncologist, David Hamilton says he hopes Face the Facts will bring home to people the stark reality of the illness and death caused by smoking.
?Half of current smokers will die early from smoking. That's not very good odds. Quitting smoking isn't easy, but it could save your life. As an oncologist I'd be very happy to have less work to do ? the only way to achieve that is if people stop smoking.?