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Mall therapy a hit, but cost still a barrier

Mall therapy a hit, but cost still a barrier

A novel trial that offers smokers the chance to try nicotine replacement therapies through kiosks in community locations is offering ongoing discounts on the most popular products to help people stick with their decision to quit.

The University of Otago Wellington trial has been underway for four months at malls and other community locations in Lower Hutt, Porirua, Palmerston North and surrounding towns, and is funded by the Ministry of Health. It offers smokers the chance to sample a range of nicotine replacement therapies under the guidance of an expert coach. Smokes can take a free sample of a week’s supply of as many products as they like, and are supported by regular follow-up at the community location or over the phone.

But lead researcher Dr Brent Caldwell says cost remains a huge barrier once people have used up their free supply.

Several hundred smokers have taken up the spur-of-the-moment chance to try nicotine replacement therapy at the stalls, with the vast majority choosing the nicotine inhalator and nicotine mouthspray, Dr Caldwell says.

But while many people are willing to pay the ongoing cost of these products, many more are choosing not to buy further products after they get their free one, he says.

“It’s really hard for smokers to spend money on nicotine replacement therapy, because most smokers cannot immediately switch from buying cigarettes to buying the therapies, and for a period of time they need to buy both the cigarettes and therapies.

“Once they quit smoking and only need to buy the therapies, they will save a lot of money, but at least initially when they are smoking and using nicotine replacement therapy at the same time it can be more expensive which might be a barrier for some people.”

To help make the decision to quit more affordable, the kiosks will sell the nicotine inhalator and nicotine mouthspray for half their usual price of $20 throughout May.

“Although $20 for the mouthspray is much cheaper than the $50 to $60 dollars that chemists charge, for some smokers it is too much to spend in one go, and we hope that at $10 more people will be able to afford it.”

Ideally the mouthspray and the inhalator would be made available to all smokers nationwide via the QuitCard programme which allows smokers to access standard nicotine replacement therapy at chemists for only $5, Dr Caldwell says.

Giving smokers the chance to try nicotine replacement therapy, and experience how enjoyable it is, encourages them to use it and doubles their chances of quitting, he says.

“We’ve had all sorts of smokers come to try the products, ranging from smokers who are very keen to try the products to those who are very dubious about whether the products will be any good. It’s really exciting to see the responses of smokers who don’t expect to get much pleasure or satisfaction from the products, and watch their faces light up as they start to experience first-hand the relief of their urge to smoke and the satisfaction of getting a hit of nicotine.”

Stalls at Westfield Queensgate mall in Lower Hutt are open every day until 13 July, and stalls in North City mall in Porirua are open Thursdays and Saturdays until 31 July. Stalls outside of Wellington will be available for new smokers to take part until September.


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