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Budget sidestepped biggest cancer killer

Opinion Piece
Letter

A poll on TV3’s AM Show found 81 percent of people gained nothing in the Government’s 2019 Wellbeing Budget.

Lung cancer in New Zealand is the biggest killer of all cancers, accounting for about 1800 deaths each year. This is more than four times worse than the road toll, and many Gisborne smokers are among these statistics.

What a shame that the Wellbeing Budget sidestepped New Zealand’s biggest cancer killer. A very small funding boost to the regulator Pharmac is pathetic compared to the taxes central government gathers from tobacco sales.

Tax revenue from tobacco was $1.9 billion last year, up from $1.7 billion in 2017.

Lung Foundation chief executive Philip Hope says it is “really quite disappointing” that a lot more of this money isn’t going on smoking prevention or cessation programmes.

While the Government reaffirmed its goal of becoming smokefree by 2025, Budget 2019 was “business as usual”.

Mr Hope said “aspirational words won’t get us there”, action was needed — reducing the availability of tobacco and having wraparound health services to support people to quit.

Research showed people were four times more likely to quit smoking if they sought help from a health professional.

Mr Hope said the lack of new Pharmac funding in Budget 2019 was a “tragedy”.

Pharmac got just a $10m increase in annual income over the next four years, a 1 percent lift.

Less than $3m a year is being spent on medicines for lung cancer patients.

“Unfortunately, lung cancer appears to be the poor cousin again,” said Mr Hope.

Immunotherapy drugs can produce miracles but are too expensive for most sufferers, who are left to die prematurely.

Advanced melanoma cancer sufferers do get funding for these drugs, creating a terribly costly inequity for all other cancer patients.

This problem should never exist.

Alain JORION

Lung Foundation NZ ambassador