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HKU Study Reveals that the Smoke-free Legislation Motivates Youth Smokers to Quit
A survey carried out by the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Medicine found that over 50% youth smokers reported an increase in their motivation to quit after the “Smoking (Public Health)(Amendment) Ordinance” came into force in most public indoor areas on January 2007, which reveals an increased demand for smoking cessation services among youth smokers in the community. In view of the inadequacy of smoking cessation services provided by the Government, a comprehensive measure including sufficient smoking cessation support and an increase in tobacco tax is needed to promote smoking cessation.
The survey compared the smoking behaviours and quitting intention of the youth smokers aged from 12 to 25, who called the HKU Youth Quitline (the first smoking cessation hotline tailor-made for youth smokers in Hong Kong) since it was launched in August 2005 to 31 December 2006, with the data obtained from 1 January to 30 September 2007 (pre-legislation and post-legislation period).

The results showed that there was an increase of 20% in telephone calls from smokers since the implementation of new smoke-free legislation. The average daily cigarette consumption among these youth smokers decreased from about 12 before the ban to around 10 after it took effect. In addition, 51.9% youth smokers interviewed reported an increase in their motivation to quit after smoking ban implementation, and 42.7% said they had less exposure to second-hand smoke.

The findings reflected that there is a sharp increasing demand for smoking cessation services among youth smokers from the Youth Quitline after the enactment of smoke-free legislation. Therefore, professional support in the community is needed to strengthen their self-efficacy to quit.

Professor LAM Tai-hing, Head of the Department of Community Medicine, HKU, said that the smoke-free legislation increased the motivation to quit among youth smokers. Unfortunately, the Government missed the opportunity of supporting smokers to quit. He urged the Government to increase resources in smoking cessation promotion and supporting services, as well as to raising tobacco tax in order to create favourable conditions for smokers to quit.

Dr Homer TSO, chairman of the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health, suggested the Government to establish a centralized quit line to facilitate smokers who want to quit. He further emphasized the importance of increasing tobacco tax as a sustainable policy. Recommended by the World Bank, the tobacco tax should be at least two-third of the retail cigarette price at high-income countries to deter people from smoking and lower the smoking prevalence.

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