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City's western suburbs are all puff - report

NICOLA BRENNAN-TUPARA
Last updated 05:00 20/07/2012
Smoking by the numbers

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Hamilton's western suburbs are the last refuge of smokers, with Dinsdale people lighting up more than any others, a new survey shows.

Dinsdale men have the highest prevalence of smoking at around 26 per cent, according to the Hamilton Health profile report.

That's more than four times the number of Hillcrest, which has a rate of just 5.5 per cent. On average, about 10 per cent of Hamilton's southeast population smokes, while in Hamilton City the average is 15 per cent.

The national average is 21 per cent. The Midland Health Network data from 2011 showed enrolled patients at three Dinsdale medical centres made up some of the four highest rates in Hamilton with 23, 27 and 28 per cent.

The Clarence St Medical Centre, in the CBD, was the other centre to have a such a high rating (28 per cent). And women in those suburbs weren't much better – with rates between 23 and 26 per cent.

But the news came as a surprise to Dinsdale Tavern manager Trent Ivil, who estimated only about 10 per cent of his punters smoked.

A former social smoker, Mr Ivil gave up when his partner quit her 25 to 30 cigarettes a day habit several years ago. It saved them "loads" of money, and he supported the Waikato District Health Board's goal of going smoke-free by 2025.

"It'll be a nicer atmosphere for all."

But smoker of 40 years, 58-year-old Peter Myers, said nothing would make him give up. The Times caught up with Mr Myers as he was having a pint and a smoke at the tavern yesterday.

"I just don't want to give up. I still enjoy it," he said. He started smoking because "it was the thing to do" and thought the fact Dinsdale rated so high was a "lot of crap".

"I never even go to the doctor – so I won't even be counted in that."

Midland Health chief executive John Macaskill-Smith said the difference among medical centres was linked to socio-economic status. Doctors and nurses were encouraged to give advice about quitting to any smoking patient.

"You get a higher hit rate when you have a health professional provide brief advice to smokers considering stopping. I was in the car with two doctors last night and one of them said a patient came in and said, ‘Right, you guys have nagged me enough with advice, I think I need to do something'. So that shows that it does work."

Ash director Ben Youdan said lower socio-economic groups were the most responsive to any increase in the price of cigarettes, so tobacco companies used "aggressive marketing" to ensure they didn't lose business in those areas.

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When the price went up a few years back, the companies "flooded" shops in poorer areas with their budget brands and increased their shelf presence. Sales of those products increased five-fold in some areas of South Auckland, he said.

"I think the thing not to get trapped into is to think that these people want to continue smoking and that it's pleasurable. I don't think that it's true. These people are getting sicker and losing more family members – it's not a happy picture by any means."

He hoped the introduction on Monday banning tobacco displays would help curb that and see a reduction in smoking.

nicola.brennan@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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