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Maori smoke-free for a year

9 February 2005

Maori smoke-free for a year in first indigenous New Zealand research study

Auckland 9 February 2005 – A Kapiti Coast clinical research project shows one in five Maori trial participants remained smoke-free for a year using smoking cessation medicine Zyban™ (bupropion) to help them quit1. The independent research involving 134 Maori people is the first Zyban trial to be completed solely in an indigenous Maori population.

Principal trial investigator and P3 Research Director Dr Shaun Holt said the results were exciting news for the Maori population where smoking continues to have a devastating impact. “The research results for this unique study achieved similar quit rates to international studies carried out in other ethnic groups. This is great news particularly as many of the participants were long-term smokers who showed a high level of addiction to cigarettes and most of them had made unsuccessful quit attempts in the past using other methods.”

“We tested the trial participants breath at pre-determined intervals to ensure they were genuinely smoke-free. This is an unusually strict criteria for a smoking cessation trial but provides a level of confidence in the results that cannot be given by many other trials in the area,” said Dr Holt.

The 12-month trial was conducted with assistance from Capital and Coast District Health Board’s Maori health team and compared smoking cessation rates between people taking Zyban and those taking placebo (inactive sugar pill). To monitor progress, trial participants were assessed a day before taking Zyban and then at three days, three weeks, six weeks, three months, six months, nine months and 12 months. Those who did not attend appointments were deemed to have started smoking again and therefore were recorded as a trial failure.

Director of Aparangi Tautoko Auahi Kore (ATAK Maori Smokefree Coalition) Shane Bradbrook said the trial results proved the importance of making a wider range of smoking cessation therapies and support programmes available to reduce smoking amongst Maori. “The Maori trial participants have shown they are as capable of quitting smoking as anyone else. The local community created a very supportive environment that celebrated each individual’s success and helped each person through the hardest times. Quitting smoking is not an easy task so we are delighted to see such a positive result among some initially hard-core smokers.”

It is estimated around 50% of Maori adults smoke2 and nearly one third of all Maori deaths have been attributed to smoking related illness2. In contrast around 20% of European New Zealand adults smoke3. The New Zealand Government has set itself a target of reducing rates of Maori smokers to those of non-Maori2. In addition, reducing the overall number of smokers and reducing the incidence of cancer remain two of the 13 priority population health objectives for the Ministry of Health4.

“Smoking is the main cause of a third of Maori deaths each year and ATAK is committed to reducing smoking rates among Maori. We would like to have a wider variety of smoking cessation tools made available to the public, including Zyban, and ATAK will continue open discussions with Government to help them achieve the reduction in smoking rates they have committed to,” said Mr Bradbrook.

The study cost around $160,000 and was supported through a research grant to P3 Research by GlaxoSmithKline. The study results were presented at Parliament on December 2nd 2004 at a closed meeting sponsored by Hon Damien O’Connor, the Government minister responsible for tobacco control.


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