Smoking rates run out of puff

By John Weekes

Chris Claydon. Photo / Janna Dixon
Chris Claydon. Photo / Janna Dixon

Smoking rates could fall below 20 per cent this year as thousands of Kiwis are expected to kick the habit.

Quitline's Bruce Bassett said adult smoking rates could fall to the lowest levels since records began. He said 21 per cent of adult New Zealanders smoked and about 9000 people were expected to use Quitline services in January. "It's going to be really busy."

He said more than a fifth of those who used quitting services stayed smoke-free.

Leone Landells chose to stop smoking just before the New Year brought a wave of resolutions and a price rise reaching more than $15 for popular packs of 20.

"I feel so much better," she said. "I didn't realise how unwell I felt as a smoker." Landells, 53, said seeing her close friend's mother suffer from emphysema was the tipping point.

"I saw her go from a woman who got dressed up and put on all the jewellery and all of a sudden she was on an oxygen tank. It's not just about getting cancer.

You could have a very poor quality of life for the next 20 years."

Landells uses nicotine gum to stay on the wagon. But her partner, Chris Claydon, a former male nurse, said he'd like to keep smoking.

"I watched my grandfather die from cigarette smoking," he said. "I watched my father die from cigarette smoking. I think about that, but I just have to accept that if I live long enough, that should kill me." He said the price rise of his preferred cigarette brand to more than $15 a pack from today wouldn't put him off. "People give up smoking now because it's not socially acceptable. The only thing the price rise does is piss me off."

Landells said that during the four years she smoked she aged rapidly. She said young women who smoked would quit if they knew how quickly the habit could age them.

Claydon, 55, said the only warnings young men would heed were those linking smoking to impotence.

Bassett said proposals such as plain cigarette packaging should also speed the decline of smoking. Australia planned to implement these laws next December. "I'm sure New Zealand will watch that with a lot of interest to see when and if we take that step."

- Herald on Sunday

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