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Smokefree backtrack ‘wrong-foots health sector ‘

A local health professional is joining more than 100 groups nationwide in urging the government to rethink repealing the Smokefree 2025 goal and is adamant the long-term health of New Zealanders is not worth compromising.

The world-first smoke-free legislation scrapped by the new coalition government has been an epicentre of criticism since it was recently announced, with an open letter denouncing the decision signed by over 100 organisations, including health, education and social services groups, and unions.

Masterton Foot Clinic podiatrist Adam Philps said it feels like the entire health workforce is rallying against the decision.

“As a podiatrist, I’ve been looking after Wairarapa’s feet for 20 years and this doesn’t stack up for me as a health professional,” Philps said.

“You’re getting a billion dollars in tax revenue, but you’ll have to spend 20 billion later down the line.

“People will be spending a lot of time in hospital, chewing up time from a workforce that is already under a lot of strain.”

Smoking causes the narrowing of blood vessels and impacts the amount of oxygen carried around the body, something Philps said has a huge impact on foot health.

“Our feet are the last cab off the rank when it comes to blood supply,” Philps said.

“This tax cut will result in limbs being cut off. That’s the bare bones of it, unfortunately.”

Philps had observed a notable decrease in people who smoke during his 20 years in the sector.

With Wairarapa’s ageing population and health system already under pressure, he said repealing the smoke-free goal will take its toll on the health system and have a significant impact on Māori.

Philps said that smoking disproportionately affects Māori “and locally, in Wairarapa, we have a higher number of Māori compared with the rest of New Zealand”.

“Logic dictates that this will result in a greater impact on Wairarapa’s hospital – longer wait times and delayed care for all,” he said.

“So the impact on our little hospital and our primary health care, our doctors, and nurses will just increase.”

Philps said he sees many patients with ‘drop foot’ – a condition that renders them unable to lift their foot off the ground and is caused by strokes, which are greatly compounded by smoking.

“Locally, we struggle to serve patients with drop foot via the hospital due to long delays in orthotic services,” he said.

“As a result, patients come and see podiatrists like me in private practice for ankle braces.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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