Want to stop smoking? Help is at hand and it's free.

University researchers Emma Byrnes, Judith Byaruhanga and Dr Flora Tzelepis will give free support to people in the Wauchope area who want to stop smoking.
University researchers Emma Byrnes, Judith Byaruhanga and Dr Flora Tzelepis will give free support to people in the Wauchope area who want to stop smoking.

Stopping smoking is tough, and a new study is supporting smokers who want to quit in regional and rural Australia – including Wauchope.

Wauchope has a high proportion of smokers (estimated 18.7 per every 100 people) compared to the national average of 16.1 per 100 people. 

The study is conducted by researchers at the University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Population Health and offers smokers either:

  • video support sessions (e.g. via Skype or FaceTime);
  • telephone support calls; or
  • written materials to help them quit smoking.

Study participants will also be asked to complete a brief online survey about smoking habits initially and then four months, seven months and 13 months later.

Dr Flora Tzelepis, who is a Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health, says the study is important.

“This study will help us determine if smokers who live in regional and remote areas are willing to use video-communication, telephone support or written materials during a quit attempt or to help them move closer to quitting,” she said.

“It will help us to understand how best to support smokers in regional and remote areas who are considering quitting smoking.”

Researchers are looking for people who:

  • smoke cigarettes or use tobacco every day;
  • are aged 18 years or older;
  • have access to a telephone;
  • have access to a mode of video-communication (e.g. Skype, FaceTime or other form);
  • have access to the internet;
  • have a current e-mail address; and
  • live in a regional or remote area of New South Wales, Australia.

“We are aware that smoking cessation may be more difficult for rural and regional people based on their geographical location, access to health facilities and cost. This randomised control trial is determined to remove these barriers and provide cessation support via video, telephone or written platforms, at no cost to participants.” she said.

This study is the first of its kind, providing real-time video counselling delivered via Skype, FaceTime or Facebook Messenger to smokers in their homes.

Why is smoking such a difficult habit to break?

Smoking is such a difficult habit because it’s a physical addiction to nicotine. Nicotine is a highly addictive  substance that is in cigarettes. Once nicotine is in the body it provides temporary relaxation, elevates mood and increases the heart rate. As soon as a person’s body clears nicotine from their system, they start to crave another cigarette and the cycle continues.

What are the best ways to stop?

Pharmacological and behavioural support in combination or alone are effective strategies that help people to stop smoking. Behavioural support such as face-to-face or telephone counselling, online and written support are also effective methods to quit smoking.

How can people stay motivated to keep off the cigarettes?

Thinking about the benefits of quitting might help people to stay motivated. These include:

  • Reducing the risk of coronary heart disease
  • Reducing the risk of cancer
  • Saving money
  • Improving one’s sense of taste and smell
  • Protecting the people around you from secondhand smoke

How does video counselling make a difference?

Video counselling allows people to have a virtual face-to-face interaction with an advisor and this may help strengthen rapport. Video counselling also eliminates many common barriers like the need to travel to access support as sessions can be taken at a place and time that it convenient. 

For more info, go to http://newcastle.edu.au/research/quit or contact Emma Byrnes at Emma.Byrnes@newcastle.edu.au or phone 4924 6028

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