Northland health officials are challenging smokers to join the quit brigade and put more money into their pockets.

May 31 is World Smokefree Day and in the lead up to the day Toki Rau Stop Smoking Services Northland revealed in the Northern Advocate this week that Northland's roughly 30,000 smokers spend around $147, 694,353 a year on tobacco products.

Smokefree advocates this week burned a symbolic cheque for that amount to highlight how much money goes up in smoke in the region annually.

With fewer New Zealanders smoking, Bridget Rowse from Northland District Health Board is challenging anyone who's thinking about stopping smoking to join the trend.

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"World Smokefree Day is the perfect time to choose the smokefree lifestyle. We know it's not easy to stop smoking, but with the right support it can be done," Rowse said.

Toki Rau has eight sites across Northland. While 19.1 per cent of Northlanders smoke — the highest rate in the country which averages 15 per cent nationally — it's down from the 24 per cent who smoked in the mid-1990s.

Increasing numbers of New Zealanders are living smokefree, with the most recent tobacco-use figures show 84 percent of New Zealanders do not smoke, she said.

"That's 4 per cent more than in 2008, so we are moving towards the Government's goal of a smokefree Aotearoa in 2025. More and more businesses are approaching us for help to support their employees to become smokefree. They're offering free nicotine replacement therapy and stop smoking support during work time with the aim of creating a smokefree workforce," Rowse said.

Stop smoking services have trained practitioners who are NZQA-qualified and follow a tried and tested stop smoking methodology.

"Our Toki Rau Stop Smoking Services offer on-going, face-to-face, intensive support and supervision. We can create a plan to manage cravings, and strategies to deal with situations where they might usually smoke. We know what works long-term," she said.

Where to go for help
For more information on World Smokefree Day, go to: www. worldsmokefreeday.org.nz
Toki Rau Stop Smoking Services Northland 0508 TOKI RAU (0508 8654 728), www.tokirau.co.nz, www.facebook.com/SmokefreeTaiTokerau.
Quitline 0800 778778 for free advice on quitting.