Young smokers targeted in study

Quitting smoking can be an uphill battle, and the hill is even steeper for smokers in country areas.

With smoking rates in regional and remote NSW largely above the national average, a new study is examining the resources available to regional smokers and whether they work. 

University of Newcastle researchers will break ground, trialling live counselling via Skype, FaceTime or Facebook Messenger directly to smokers in their homes.

“There are important populations in regional areas and while face-to-face behavioral smoking cessation support is effective, not many people use it,” lead researcher Dr Flora Tzelepis said. 

“One of the barriers might be that people need to travel to attend that service.”

In Young, the smoking rate is well above the national average, sitting at almost 22 per cent per 100 people according to data from the Australian Heart Foundation. 

Terry King, 60, from Junee has been smoking regularly since she was 16. 

After being diagnosed with emphysema two years ago, she’s reduced her smoking from 30-40 to six cigarettes per day, with support from Wagga’s Dr Venter. 

“Now I’m committed to quitting, but my brain wants the nicotine when it wants it… If I don’t get the nicotine when my brain wants it, I get extremely anxious,” she said.

“I am on anxiety medication, but it still doesn’t prevent panic attacks if my brain decides I’m cutting its supply of nicotine too quickly. That’s when I could use the emotional support.” 

She’s struggled with the lack of suitable resources in Junee and said while video counselling may help some, it would be difficult to maintain for those with busy schedules. 

She’s quitting by cutting down one cigarette per day on a monthly basis. 

“Psychological support would go a long way to helping as well. Seeing a psychologist once a month is ineffective for providing support when one is attempting to cease smoking using the method I am using,” she said. 

Dr Tzelepis said if found effective, the researchers would advocate NSW Quitline adopt a video support strategy. 

“It might establish greater rapport between adviser and client and we might find it helps people connect more and really benefits users,” she said. 

The researchers hope to recruit around 1800 smokers for the project.

To volunteer for the study or more information, visit: www.newcastle.edu.au/research/quit