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2 November 2001 News Update


The Ministry of Health is concerned about new research suggesting smoking is a major cause of blindness in New Zealanders.

A study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal suggests smoking causes serious visual impairment or blindness for about 1300 New Zealanders a year.

The researchers also estimated that 400 cases of cataract surgery each year were due to smoking. That represents around 13% of all cataract surgery.

Ministry of Health spokesman Matthew Allen says knowing there was a prospect of going blind could be a strong motivation for smokers to contemplate quitting. If they quit it would also reduce the risk of death and disease from 40 other illnesses known to be caused by smoking.

Researchers believe warnings on tobacco products about the risk of blindness would be an effective way of alerting New 'Zealanders to this latest smoking-related risk.

Other recent suggestions for warnings on tobacco products include "smoking causes strokes" and "smoking causes impotence".

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