Peers pushing smokers to quit

Positive peer pressure is helping more people kick the habit in the Bay of Plenty area.

With more people quitting smoking because of Government enforced price increases, even the most stubborn smokers are changing their ways as their friends and family give up, Bay of Plenty DHB tobacco control project manager Stewart Ngatai said.

About 5000 New Zealanders die annually from smoking-related illnesses.

"Some of the reports we've got from our services is that generally, when the tax hikes go up, we've been having more people going through," he said.

"That's not just your typical services such as Quitline, but also at GPs."

Quitline received 41,738 calls to August 31 this year from Kiwi smokers keen to kick the habit.

In the year to date, 1996 people have registered with Quitline in the Bay of Plenty, compared with 2086 by the same time last year.

About 180 people from the Bay of Plenty district registered with Quitline in August, compared with 378 in January.

Quitline spokeswoman Jane MacPherson said January saw the organisation's highest call volumes due to New Year's resolutions and people wanting to make a "fresh start to the year".

Recent price increases had a huge impact on the number of people wanting to quit smoking, she said.

"People effectively cannot afford it [anymore].

"It's compounded really and it magnifies the impact of people wanting to give up."

Retail displays of cigarettes were banned from July 23 this year. Under the regulations, all retailers are required to ensure tobacco products are hidden from view.

Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia said recent law changes had removed the "loophole" of tobacco displays.

"Retail displays, innocently positioned alongside everyday confectionary and sweets, are a key component of making cigarettes attractive to recruit young smokers.

"We're not going to tolerate this any longer."

Enforcement officers can now instantly fine retailers $1000 for selling tobacco to people aged under 18.

The maximum penalty for selling tobacco to underage people has also increased from $2000 to $10,000.

A series of tax rises - with more on the way - have made New Zealand cigarettes among the most expensive in the OECD. Tobacco excise taxes are set to increase by 10 per cent a year over the next four years.

British American Tobacco New Zealand last month launched a print, television and radio campaign in response to the New Zealand Government's plan to strip all branding from cigarette packs to make them less attractive to smokers.

The Government has set a goal of making New Zealand smokefree by 2025.

The Government is considering further steps to stop the promotion of tobacco products, including abolishing duty free sales, licensing retailers and banning sales within a kilometre of schools.

Research shows tobacco control initiatives, including the introduction of smokefree workplace laws in 2003, are impacting on smokers.

The prevalence of smoking in New Zealand was 35 per cent in 1983. Today it is under 18 per cent.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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