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Get medical help to kick habit, battling smokers urged

HK Standard

Phoebe Man

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Smokers should not rely on themselves but see a doctor if they want to kick the habit.

That’s the advice of Lam Bing, convener of Hong Kong Primary Care Foundation Smoking Cessation Alliance.

There are about 800,000 smokers in the SAR and smoking results in about 19 deaths a day on average, according to the Council on Smoking and Health.

Lam said the main problem when it comes to stopping smoking is that most people do not see the habit as a disease – nicotine addiction.

If they stop, nicotine withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and depression set in.

To ease the symptoms, smokers will keep puffing away, fueling their addiction.

“The disadvantages of smoking, such as those horrible pictures printed on packs of cigarettes, have been promoted to smokers for a long time,” Lam said. “Will they quit smoking after looking at those pictures? I don’t think such a strategy still works now.”

He urged smokers to seek medical advice. With the appropriate use of medicine, he believes about 60 to 80 percent of smokers may successfully stop.

If smokers rely just on their willpower, only 5 to to 10 percent may stop, Lam said.

A former smoker from Yuen Long remains skeptical about quitting with the help of a doctor.

He tried three or four times to quit before, using nicotine patches and gums, but failed.

He once spent HK$5,000 on Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking program but that also did not help.

Finally, he quit smoking 18 months ago without help from doctors or medicines, doing so only by willpower.

“If you don’t want to give up, you won’t,” he said.

Lam said varenicline, bupropion and nicotine replacement therapies are mainly used to stop smoking.

Varenicline and bupropion need to be prescribed by doctors. They cost HK$2,000 to HK$3,000, not including doctor’s fees.

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