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University of Otago trial takes help directly to smokers

University of Otago trial takes help directly to smokers

A novel trial which offers smokers the chance to try nicotine replacement therapy on the spur of the moment as they go about their daily lives has started in Wellington.

The University of Otago Wellington trial will offer 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, so they can experience first-hand how enjoyable and effective they are.

Lead researcher Dr Brent Caldwell says the trial will enable smokers to easily experience first-hand the benefits of nicotine replacement therapy and become more confident in their ability to quit smoking.

Smokers will be 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.

“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.”

Smokers will be given regular follow-up support to keep using nicotine replacement therapy to try to quit smoking.

“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.”

Most smokers quit “cold turkey” without the assistance of nicotine replacement therapy, and are only half as likely to remain smokefree a year later compared to those who use nicotine replacement therapy, Dr Caldwell says.

The new trial addresses two barriers to smokers’ use of nicotine replacement therapy: negative perceptions about nicotine replacement therapy, and access to nicotine replacement therapy, he says.

“There are many reasons people don’t seek conventional help, including having used the services before without success, or to avoid being asked to pay an outstanding doctors bill, not currently thinking about quitting, or thinking nicotine replacement therapy is dangerous.”

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, he says.

“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.

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

Smokers are being invited to take part in the study by attending a nicotine replacement therapy stall at Queensgate Shopping Mall in Lower Hutt. This has been set up at Queensgate this week. Stalls will open at North City Mall in February, and 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 smokefree nation goal by 2025.


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