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Smokers respond to spur of the moment chance to quit

Monday 24 February 2014

Smokers respond to spur of the moment chance to quit

A novel trial that has been underway for a month at Queensgate mall in Lower Hutt has seen 256 smokers take up the chance to try nicotine replacement therapy on the spur of the moment.

The trial is now extending, with stalls due to open at North City Mall in Porirua tomorrow.

The University of Otago Wellington trial offers smokers the chance to sample a range of nicotine replacement therapies under the guidance of an expert coach at shopping malls and other public spaces. 

Lead researcher Dr Brent Caldwell says that in the first month that the trial has operated at Queensgate mall, smokers have been keen to try the products and experience first-hand the benefits of nicotine replacement therapy and become more confident in their ability to quit smoking.

“We’ve had all sorts of smokers come to try the products, particularly the nicotine inhalator and nicotine mouthspray which most smokers have never tried before.  We’ve had smokers who aren’t particularly interested in quitting but just want to see what the products are like, and we’ve also had smokers who have already quit recently but are finding it hard to stay quit, and would like to try new products to give them extra help.”

Smokers who enroll in the trial are given a free sample pack of the therapies that they like which they can use over the next week regardless of whether they want to quit, or are just curious and want to see how things go, Dr Caldwell says. 

Smokers are encouraged to return to the stalls regularly over the following five months to receive further nicotine replacement therapy and encouragement.

Most smokers opt for a combination of the nicotine inhalator and mouthspray, and are excited by how much more effective they are than the standard products that they’ve tried in the past, Dr Caldwell says. 

“The smokers we’ve seen at the mall, really like the focus on using nicotine replacement therapy as much as possible, and only reducing their smoking at a pace that is comfortable for them.”

The more nicotine that smokers get from the safe source of nicotine replacement therapy, the less they will feel the need to get nicotine from smoking, and the easier it will be to reduce and quit smoking comfortably, he says.

The trial is an exciting new approach because it gives smokers a chance to experience the helpful effects of nicotine replacement therapy, without having to sign up to setting a quit date, which they might not be ready to do, Dr Caldwell says. 

 “Our idea is that providing readily accessible assistance in a wide variety of community settings will reduce any delay between a smoker’s thoughts of quitting and them doing something about it.

“Most smokers would like to quit, but they often put off trying because they feel overwhelmed with how hard it is. If smokers get the chance to use nicotine replacement therapy in an ideal way, and feel their urge evaporate, they become much more confidence in their ability to quit.”

Giving smokers the chance to try nicotine replacement therapy, and experience how enjoyable it is, will encourage them to use it and double their chances of quitting, Dr Caldwell says.

“It’s a totally non-judgmental, liberating, and empowering way to engage with smokers.”

Stalls are due to open in the Palmerston North and Manawatu area in March.

The trial has been funded by the Ministry of Health Innovation Fund to help New Zealand achieve the smoke-free nation goal by 2025.

ENDS

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