Kim Fulton is a NZME. News Service regional reporter

Concerns over number of pregnant NZ women smoking

There are concerns over the number of Northland women smoking during pregnancy. Photo / iStock
There are concerns over the number of Northland women smoking during pregnancy. Photo / iStock

Thousands of New Zealanders have turned to Quitline and other organisations for support to stop smoking in recent months but health officials are concerned at the number of young people, pregnant women and Maori continuing with the habit.

Quitline data shows the organisation received just under 30,300 calls, texts and emails between November 1 and mid-March.

Northland District Health Board Smokefree hospital facilitator Jan Marshall said Northland's smoking rates fell from 25.7 per cent in the 2006 Census to 19 per cent in 2013. However, Maori smoking rates in Northland remained too high at 33.9 per cent.

"Smokers and their families are still suffering unnecessarily from the harmful effects."

Another real problem in Northland was the number of women smoking during pregnancy, said Ms Marshall.

A lot of effort went into helping pregnant women stop smoking, but it was a family issue, she said.

Ms Marshall said most smokers wanted to stop. It seemed more and more people were giving up or attempting to give up and referrals from hospital services continued to increase.

The top reasons for hospital patients deciding to quit were health, money and children. They wanted to be smoke-free role models and to be around for their children's future.

Whanganui-based target champion for primary care Dr John McMenamin said routine care of smokers in the area was very good with health providers trying to offer each smoker support to stop at least once a year.

The problem was the number of people taking up smoking. The uptake was particularly prevalent among those aged 18 to 25.

There were a lot of people in that age group in Whanganui and as a result Dr McMenamin said more people were taking up smoking than quitting.

The challenge was to identify young smokers and encourage them to quit before they became dependent.

An incentive programme encouraged people to give up smoking by giving them vouchers to be used on anything but tobacco and alcohol.

Young people were also being encouraged into activities incompatible with smoking such as sport.

Another area of focus for health providers was pregnant women. They were likely to be in the younger age group where smoking was more prevalent.

Providers worked to identify smokers who were pregnant and offer them help to quit. Those women were also offered vouchers as incentives to help them stop smoking, said Dr McMenamin.

Quitline advisor Dave Lowe, from Featherston, said people were quitting for financial and health reasons and for their families.

"They're quitting for themselves but there's also concerns with regards to their whanau... they obviously want to be around for as long as they can, for their families."

Mr Lowe tells his quitting story in a new advertisement shot in Wairarapa.

Mr Lowe said it wasn't his job to make people quit but to support those who had decide they wanted to quit for themselves or their families.

Quitline chief executive Andrew Slater said people were increasingly using digital tools such as blogs, Facebook and texts to quit smoking.

Friends, family and partners of smokers were also increasingly asking online about how to help their whanau quit.

"That's an emerging trend for us...What we want to do is help those people become positive health coaches, to support their friends and family," said Mr Slater.

He thought the increased interest from friends and family of smokers was a result of their ability to engage with the Quitline service online.

Quitline was available 24 hours seven days a week and Mr Slater said people were five times more likely to succeed in their attempts to quit if they'd been through programmes such as Quitline.

It could work with them to find the best tools to support their efforts.

Mr Slater said people received a huge boost to their self esteem when they had quit smoking.

- NZ Herald

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