19 Feb 2011

Specialist quit-smoking clinics recommended

5:49 pm on 19 February 2011

A world-renowned nicotine expert says specialist treatment clinics for smokers would help New Zealanders quit smoking.

Professor Richard Hurt is the keynote speaker at the University of Otago, Wellington's Inaugural International Cancer Symposium that has been running over the past week in the capital.

Professor Hurt, who runs a nicotine addiction treatment clinic in the United States, says quitting smoking is not just an issue of willpower, as cigarettes biologically alter people's brains.

He says the tobacco industry has promoted cigarettes as a free choice issue, but once people get addicted they actually lose the ability to choose.

Professor Hurt says people need a combination of both medication and counselling to quit.

He says he thinks tobacco companies' next tactic will be promoting so-called safer cigarettes - but there will never be a safe cigarette.

Quit Group calls on DHBs to help

A national quit-smoking group says it wants district health boards to help it connect with a greater number of smokers.

Quit Group chief executive, Paula Snowden, says the district health boards currently pass on smokers' contact details to Quit Group, with patients' permission.

But she says too often smokers are just given a card with the QuitLine number on it.

Rather than asking patients to do all the work, she says it's more effective if the Quit Group can contact them directly.

Ms Snowden says hospitals need to ensure they are as accessible as possible, especially to poor people who are often suspicious of the health sector.

Clinical treatment great success - Hutt Valley DHB

Hutt Valley District Health Board says its move towards the clinical treatment of smokers, as opposed to counselling methods, has been "incredibly successful".

Speaking at the symposium, the DHB's smokefree co-ordinator Stephen Vega said the culture in hospitals has changed and it is now acceptable to prescribe nicotine replacement therapies and tell people they should stop smoking.

He says in 2006, about 750 patients at Hutt Valley were given nicotine replacement therapy such as patches or inhalers, but that number had skyrocketed to almost 7000 last year.

Mr Vega says the hospital will advise more than 3500 smokers to quit this year.