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Young Smokers Looking To Quit ‘Need More Help’

Young Smokers Looking To Quit ‘Need More Help’

Scarlett Chiang – SCMP
Updated on Feb 22, 2008

The smoking ban has been effective in encouraging young smokers to quit, a survey has found, but there were not enough avenues for them to seek help. A University of Hong Kong survey found that more people called its hotline enquiring about quitting after a ban came into force in most public indoor areas on January 1 last year.

The university’s Youth Quitline for people aged 12 to 25 said it recorded a 60 per cent increase in calls from smokers after the ban.

In the first nine months of 2006 there were 179 calls, compared with 214 in the same period last year.

Calls from non-smoking parents seeking advice on how they could help their teenagers quit increased 45 per cent from 69 in the first nine months of 2006 to 100 in the same period last year.

Among the calls received since January 1 last year, 50 per cent of callers said they had more motivation to quit since the ban came into force, and 40 per cent said they received more encouragement to quit from their friends and family.

Sophia Chan Siu-chee, head of the university’s nursing studies department, said the figures showed there had been a sharp increase in the number of young smokers seeking to quit in the first few months after the legislation was introduced, and the government should do more to encourage people to quit.

She said young smokers needed professional support to help them quit and the university’s hotline was the only one available for teenagers.

“The government should help smokers,” Professor Chan said. “If there is a smoking ban for the public to protect them from second-hand smoke, there should also be some ways to help smokers quit.”

She said the government had provided a one-off HK$300,000 subsidy in 2005 from the Health Care Promotion Fund. The hotline needs funding to continue its services.

“If we want to continue to help teenage smokers, we need more help, especially from the government,” she said. The university said there were 15,700 daily smokers aged 15 to 19 in the city.

An anti-smoking organisation also urged the government to raise the tobacco tax every year by about 15 per cent to encourage people to quit.

Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health chairman Homer Tso Wei-kwok said he hoped the government could either raise the tobacco tax every year or make a one-off increase of 40 per cent to 50 per cent in the budget on Wednesday.

“The tobacco tax should be about two-thirds more than the retail price of a packet of cigarettes to deter people from smoking,” Dr Tso said.

He also complained that the government had no measures to encourage young people to quit.

A Health Department spokeswoman said the government had encouraged smokers to quit through legislation, education and tobacco tax. She added that the department had set up a clinic and a hotline for people who wanted to quit.

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