Former Associate Health Minister Dame Tariana Turia questions whether we should pay GPs to gather smoking data.

At a meeting of the Whanganui District Health Board it was acknowledged that general practitioners received funding from the DHB to supply information about their patients' smoking habits.

Dame Tariana queried why funding should go towards general practitioners for simply asking patients if they smoke.

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"Why should we pay for that question? That's just a waste of money, that's just a way of GPs being paid more money when, in fact, the majority of them work for PHOs so usually have quite a bit of money in the bank anyway."

She also questioned the validity of the data provided by GPs.

"People lie. I know that because people lie. My grandson, on a number of occasions, has been asked if he smokes and he always says no. He's lying."

She felt that doctors should not have to be enticed to provide medical data.
"How on earth can you say you are contributing to smoking cessation when all you do is ask, 'Do you smoke?'"

But hospital chief executive Julie Patterson said figures showed that when GPs engaged with their patients about their smoking behaviour this increased their likelihood of quitting.

"What research shows is that the more times people are challenged about their smoking status, the closer they get to making the personal decision that they want to give up."