Quitline demand lights up as smokers look to quit

  • 04/01/2019

Sixty percent more smokers have contacted Quitline in the first two days of this year than the same period last year.

It comes after a 10 percent increase in tobacco tax on January 1.

Hapai Te Hauora spokesperson Mihi Blair says price is an important factor.

"Also we do see that people are looking at their lifestyle as well. This is a combination of things, and it's really good that they are ringing Quitline for support."

Quitline says January is its busiest month, with 1000 more smokers calling in than any other month. Two hundred more smokers called in the first two days of this year compared with last year.

Public health department Hapai Te Hauora says it's an encouraging start, as usually figures this high are seen later in the month.

Ms Blair says vaping is currently the most popular way to quit smoking tobacco.

"We're seeing evidence where Māori women are taking vaping as a form of quit tool, to just alleviate and reduce their cigarette intake."

She says it's exciting progress, but there needs to be more local promotion.

"Then we can really see there is a lot of ownership about the community taking ownership of the Smokefree 2025 goal, not just the Government or the health sector."

ACT leader David Seymour said earlier this week the annual tax hikes have only encouraged a few people to quit.

"Thirty-five percent of Māori for instance are still smoking, paying exorbitant taxes - twice as high as they were five years ago - and for what benefit? Same people smoking, they've just got less money."

The latest figures from the Ministry of Health show smoking has dropped from 20.1 percent of adults to 13.8 percent in 2018. Māori rates have dropped from 42 percent to 32.5 percent over the same timeframe.

The long-term health effects of vaping remain unknown, with recent research suggesting it could be worse than initially thought.