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Boost for Smoking Cessation Funding

Health Minister Annette King today announced a $6.18 million package to help moderate to heavy smokers quit smoking.

Mrs King said the package was additional to the $5 million announced in the Budget to help Maori stop smoking.

"It is estimated 740,000 New Zealanders still smoke, about a quarter of the population. This programme can help them all to quit smoking if they are prepared to try."

Mrs King said the money would be used to subsidise nicotime replacement therapies for moderate to heavy smokers for up to eight weeks.

"All they have to do is contact Quitline or a health professional. They will be given a certificate entitling them to a four-week supply of NRT for about the cost of one packet of cigarettes, with the option of another four-week supply if needed. Normally it could cost smokers up to $125 a month to buy NRTs."

"I am delighted we now have a scheme to help all moderate to heavy smokers. It was important to fund a Maori smoking cessation programme in the Budget, because there is a disproportionately high number of Maori smokers, but all smokers are likely to need help to give up. This programme will do just that."

Alliance health spokesperson Phillida Bunkle today said she was thrilled by the announcement. "A number of measures have been taken over the years to help people quit smoking, but until now they all been piecemeal. The coalition Government has put together a comprehensive smoking cessation package, and there is nothing halfhearted about this initiative. No moderate to heavy smokers will be able to say this Government is not concerned about their health."

Mrs King said $4 million of the funding would be sourced from the $15 million allocated in the Budget to the Green Party for green issues.

"Some details of the programme, including a starting date, still have to be worked out, but I want the scheme operating as quickly as possible. The quicker we can do it, the better. The sooner smokers give up, the better chance they have of living a healthy life again, and of fulfilling their potential as New Zealanders."

For more information, contact John Harvey (04) 471 9305.

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