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Specialist smoking clinics could boost quit rates

Wednesday, 27 February 2013 8:04am

Cigarette butt usedResearchers from Otago’s Wellington Asthma Research Group investigating new methods to help people stop smoking say that New Zealand urgently needs new approaches.

They say it is time to consider specialist treatment clinics for smokers who have been unable to quit after making multiple attempts. This is despite services such as Quitline, along with price increases and marketing controls, playing a vital role in helping smokers to quit.

“The big problem is that smoking is an incredibly hard addiction to overcome, and more needs to be done to help the 90 percent of smokers who will relapse back to smoking a year after standard therapy,” Dr Brent Caldwell says.

“It might surprise some people that our smoking rates are still around 20 percent, unlike some other countries such as Australia and some US states that have lower smoking rates. This is after two decades of steep price increases, free or heavily subsidised smoking cessation assistance, and extensive public education programmes.”

"We need to stop treating smoking as a lifestyle choice and start treating it as a complex chronic relapsing disease which requires specialist tailored treatment.”

Dr Marie Ditchburn and colleagues Dr Caldwell and Professor Julian Crane argue in the New Zealand Medical Journal that specialist smoking cessation clinics have been successful overseas, such as in the United Kingdom. They say clinics should be established here, funded through District Health Boards and Public Health Organisations with a range of evidence-based cessation methods offered.

“We need to stop treating smoking as a lifestyle choice and start treating it as a complex chronic relapsing disease which requires specialist tailored treatment,” Dr Caldwell explains.

"We need to stop treating smoking as a lifestyle choice and start treating it as a complex chronic relapsing disease which requires specialist tailored treatment.”

“This means offering solutions that work for smokers desperate to quit. These may include long-term use of nicotine replacement therapy, other medication and behavioural support. While a more intensive and personal approach delivered through specialist clinics may appear expensive, even the most expensive cessation programmes are more cost effective than most medical care interventions.”

Dr Caldwell says the results speak for themselves. In the UK smokers who use specialist National Health Service clinics are four times more likely to quit than those who do not.

The Wellington researchers say that because smoking is so highly addictive, more effective ways to help people quit are urgently required if New Zealand is going to achieve its smokefree goal by 2025.