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Smokers Flood Quitline With Calls

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Smokers Flood Quitline With Calls

Auckland, Jan 2 NZPA - Smokers wanting to quit have flooded the Quitline call centre with enquiries, following a 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes which came into force on January 1.

Extra staff have been brought in at the call centre in Wellington to cope with the demand, Quit Group spokesperson Shelley Crestani told NZPA today.

"140 calls were forecast for New Year's Day, and we ended up getting 176. We're still waiting to get web stats which is usually another 50 percent, so it's easily going to be around the 200 mark," she said.

"We don't normally open on a Saturday but we expected more calls with it being New Year's Day and the tax hike on cigarettes.

"It's been going through the roof. There were a further 40 calls in the first hour this morning, so that caught them (the call centre) a bit off guard as well."

More calls were expected this week as people made the decision to quit.

Calls to Quitline doubled after the last tax hike in April, so it was not much of a surprise, Ms Crestani added.

Over two-thirds of callers interviewed after the last tax increase said it was one of their reasons to quit, the Public Health Association national executive officer Dr Gay Keating said.

The PHA believed 2010 was a significant year towards creating a smokefree New Zealand, with increases in taxes on tobacco and the release of the Maori Affairs Select Committee report on Maori smoking and the tobacco industry.

The PHA hoped 2011 would see tobacco displays removed from dairies and other retail outlets. Tariana Turia's bill, introduced in December 2010, will be reported back to Parliament in April 2011.

Dr Marewa Glover, director for the Centre of Tobacco Control at The University of Auckland, was confident the added cost the tax increase would add to the price of cigarettes would encourage more people to give up smoking.

"It's just another reason to quit and also helps people who have quit and are feeling triggered to smoke again. They think about the higher price which might put them off reaching for a cigarette.

"The hardest thing is staying stopped, and this will help people who have stopped who are feeling tempted over the festive season.

"But people need to quit because for their health and longevity. Smoking kills half the people who smoke regularly long-term, so people need to think about that," Dr Glover said.

A study by the centre, released earlier this year, found Maori, Pacific and low-income smokers had tried to quit following the first tax increase on tobacco in April.

"For Maori, quitting for whanau is most important. Quitting for children is a more valued reason than the cost. Children who see adults smoking normalise it, and it contributes to that whole environment of kids taking up smoking and copying adults," Dr Glover said.

There are a lot of people who try to stop smoking, but also lots of relapsing, she added.

"Each time somebody stops, they start to learn how to cope with the triggers and the withdrawal symptoms.

"They also learn about just how addictive smoking is, and just how hard it is to stay stopped.

"I'm not sure if the tax increase is big enough. But it's great to have annual increments, especially if it acts as a preventative health measure to help people quit," Dr Glover added.

Yesterday's 10 percent increase in the tax on tobacco was the second of three jumps. The tax was first raised last May and another 10 percent escalation is planned for January 2012.

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