Smoking on the way out in Otago

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The number of regular smokers in Otago has fallen 25.6 per cent – the largest percentage decrease in the country – and local anti-smoking advocates are welcoming the news.

Statistics released yesterday from the 2013 census revealed the decline in the numbers of regular smokers since 2006.

“The Otago region had 7359 fewer smokers in 2013 than it did in 2006, a decline of 25.6 per cent,” it said.

“The proportion of adults in Otago who regularly smoke fell to 14.0 per cent, down from 19.5 per cent in 2006,” census general manager Sarah Minson said.

For people aged 15 to 19, the proportion of regular smokers fell from 15.7 per cent in 2006 to 8.2 per cent last year, a decrease of 1167 people.

Local anti-smoking groups welcomed the news.

North Otago Asthma Society field worker Debbie Huls said the news was “fantastic”.

“It’s really great that people are recognising they need to give up and take control of their own health,” she said.

“There’s nothing good about smoking and it’s good to stop.”

Increasing prices and plain packaging on cigarettes were good ideas which would continue the decline in the number of regular smokers in the area, she said.

Oamaru Hospital’s smokers’ cessation practitioner Jan Keown said she was happy with the news.

Oamaruvians were being “very proactive” in trying to quit smoking, she said.

It took an average of about 17 attempts to quit smoking and Mrs Keown said it was harder to quit than heroin.

Smoking increased the risk of heart disease and cancer, second-hand smoke was an irritant to children and the habit was expensive and addictive, she said.

There were a lot of options for people in the area wanting to quit though, such as Quitline, which can be reached on 0800 778 778, and Oamaru Hospital’s smoking cessation programme which she was involved with.

The hospital offered hour-long, one-on-one appointments to anyone wanting to quit smoking, which would go in-depth to identify the best path someone could follow to quit.

The clinic runs from 9am-3pm each Friday.

To make an appointment at the clinic, ring Oamaru Hospital on 433 0290 and dial extension 9025 to reach hospital outpatients.

By DAVID DE LOREAN