3000 seek help to quit smoking in south

HANNAH MCLEOD
Last updated 05:00 04/01/2014

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More than 3000 southerners sought help from Quitline to give up smoking last year.

However, it is unknown how many succeeded.

Figures from Quitline show 3012 people in the Southern District Health Board area asked for help to quit smoking from January to November 2013. The figures do not include those who attempted to quit under their own steam.

Quitline is preparing for its busiest month of the year, with more staff available this month.

Quitline spokeswoman Sarah Woods said January would be busy because the tobacco price increased and quitting smoking was a common new year resolution.

Tobacco prices were hiked by 10 per cent on January 1 as part of a government policy that means the excise tax on tobacco products increases 10 per cent each year for four years. The policy was first implemented on January 1, 2013.

Nicola Buick, of Invercargill, said on New Year's Eve she had bought her last packet of cigarettes, and would not be buying any more once the price went up.

She smokes a 30g pack of loose tobacco a week. "I'm going to quit because I can't afford it any more. I've already bought my last packet, I'll quit cold turkey when it runs out," she said.

Lexi Whelan, of Invercargill, said she decided to quit before the price hikes because she wanted to improve her fitness. "I assumed they [prices] would go up, but they don't make a difference to me because I want to quit anyway."

In 2013 a pack of 20 cigarettes cost between $14 and $18.40 and a 30g pouch of loose tobacco ranged from $29.90 to $35.90, Quitline said.

The exact effect of the 2014 tobacco tax increase on the retail price of tobacco will be determined by the tobacco industry.

In the Southern District Health Board area, 465 people approached Quitline in January 2013.

In the same month Quitline helped a total of 7000 New Zealanders to start their smoking cessation, but the average in other months of the year was about 3500.

More people contacted Quitline in January 2012, when 8500 people said they wanted to quit.

"We expected it to drop a bit though," Ms Woods said. "Figures released from the census shows that the smoking population has decreased dramatically, so it would make sense there are less people that need help to quit." 

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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