Quitline smoking as more want to beat the habit

JOANNE BENNETT AND FAIRFAX
Last updated 05:00 03/01/2014

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New Year's resolutions and rising tobacco taxes are motivating hundreds of South Cantabrians to try to give up smoking.

Last year 501 people from the region registered with Quitline, around one-fifth of them in January.

Quitline communications manager Sarah Woods said the combination of new year resolutions and the 10 per cent price increase meant January was a busy time.

The first of four government-imposed increases was introduced in 2013. Prices have gone up another 10 per cent this year, and will do the same next year and in January 2016.

The tax rise takes the average price of a pack of 20 cigarettes now to $17.20, and a 25-pack to $21.75. A 30-gram pouch of tobacco is $38.

Over this New Year period, Quitline has been fielding four times more calls than average.

"When the price goes up, it is the tipping point for people who are already thinking about quitting," Ms Woods said.

Over the last three years, the number of people contacting Quitline from South Canterbury has decreased, from 768 in 2011, and 599 in 2012, which Quitline believes is because the number of smokers is steadily reducing.

For Timaru smokers such as Lisa Collett and Angela (who declined to give her last name), 2014 is the year for quitting.

"The tax increase doesn't really bother me, and the health concerns don't bother me either, even though I'm a nurse. For me it's the smell - you can't have it around patients," Angela said. "I can afford it, but for people who are struggling - when you're addicted, you always manage to afford it anyway." Angela started smoking when she was 12. Now 52, she estimates she has spent around $7000 a year on cigarettes, smoking 20 a day. "That's a lot of overseas holidays and new cars."

Ms Collett quit smoking for eight years, but started again after the Canterbury earthquakes. "This year feels like the right time to give up again. I smoke between five and 10 a day, and the cost does add up," she said.

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- The Timaru Herald

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