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Dozens quit smoking thanks to HKU service hotline

Dozens of smokers have successfully kicked the habit with the help of a hotline set up by the University of Hong Kong.

Altogether, 1,147 people have used the service in the past five years, of whom 233, or 23.5 percent, have stopped smoking, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The success rate was achieved within six months.

Project director Dr. William Li said the average age of participants was 19.9 years.

Three in five were students including three in 10 who used to smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day.

Just 10 percent of the help seekers have cut down on their tobacco intake.

Li said the situation is “quite worrying” but some cases are promising.

Ah-Tung, 18, started smoking a year ago because of pressure from school and personal relationship issues.

He used to consume half a pack of cigarettes a day.

An avid runner, he decided to seek help after noticing his health had deteriorated.

“I could only complete two laps on the jogging track when I was a smoker, but soon after I quit, I was capable of doing a lot more laps,” he said.

Li said Ah-Tung’s case is typical.

About 43 percent of the people who called the Youth Quitline said they suffer from emotional stress.

Li said those who are emotionally disturbed are more easily influenced by their peers would usually find it more difficult to quit smoking.

HKU School of Nursing also found that 60 percent of young smokers who tried to quit smoking have switched to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), according to Ming Pao Daily.

The percentage was even higher among younger smokers.

Among e-cigarette smokers aged 25 and below, 43 percent are between 15 and 17 while those aged between 18 to 20 make up 35 percent of the group, followed by those from 21 to 25, which makes up 14 percent.

Lam Tai-hing, chair professor of the School of Public Health of the HKU Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, said the success rate among traditional cigarette and e-cigarette smokers is more or less the same.

The figures suggest that e-cigarettes do not help smokers get rid of nicotine addiction, Lam said.

He said more effort is needed to educate the public about the dangers of smoking.

Lam also called for legislation to ban e-cigarettes.

Youth Quitline (5111 4333) targets smokers aged 25 and below.

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