Whanganui District Health Board acute inpatient mental health unit Te Awhina becomes smokefree on Tuesday, bringing it in line with the rest of the health board campus.

Katheryn Butters, Te Awhina clinical nurse manager, said smoking rates among people with mental health and addiction issues were significantly higher than those who do not have mental health problems.

"Sadly, there is a disproportionate incidence of tobacco-related illness and early death of people who have a mental illness. One study estimates a third of all cigarettes purchased in New Zealand are consumed by people with mental health issues," Mrs Butters said.

"There is no getting away from the fact that tobacco smoking remains the single largest cause of preventable illness and death in New Zealand, contributing to around 5000 deaths each year, and one in four cancer deaths."


To support the implementation of its smokefree policy, Te Awhina service users who smoke will be given advice and help to quit smoking, including nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products.

"If you come into Te Awhina you will not be able to smoke and we will support you to do this. We hope during that time you will be able to quit for good," Mrs Butters said.

Stanford House, the health board's forensic mental health unit, became smokefree on June 1.

In addition to offering support and NRT to Stanford House patients, staff also created smokefree activities to keep them occupied and to support healthy lifestyles and wellbeing. This included taking part in the inaugural Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority/Whanau Try-athlon involving a 5km walk, 300m swim and 2.5km waka paddle which a team of four patients and two staff members trained hard for.

To help patients to quit smoking, the health board is asking the public to respect its policy of no smoking while on its grounds, buildings and carparks, including in cars.