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14th “Quit to Win” Smoke-free Community Campaign United the Community Forces to Promote Smoking Cessation, Leading to a Smoke-free Healthy Lifestyle

Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) has been organizing the “Quit to Win” Smoke-free Community Campaign since 2009. Over the years, the Campaign has actively engaged the community to encourage smokers to embrace a smoke-free healthy lifestyle through smoking cessation contests, along with counseling and scientific research. Meanwhile, a variety of district-based smoke-free promotion activities and media promotions were conducted to create a supportive social atmosphere for smoking cessation. With the support and collaboration from over a hundred diversified organizations, including District Councils, District Health Centres/Express, community service organizations, government departments, public entities, associations and companies from different industries, the territory-wide 14th “Quit to Win” Smoke-free Community Campaign was successfully held. From June to October 2023, COSH conducted about 90 recruitment sessions throughout the territory and organized over 70 promotion activities in collaboration with district working partners. Totally, the Campaign motivated over 1,200 smokers to kick the smoking habit and shared smoke-free messages with about 100,000 members of public.

COSH held a prize presentation ceremony today (13 March) to award the winners and successful quitters of the 14th “Quit to Win” Contest and commend the enthusiastic support from all collaborating organizations. Honorable guests included Dr FUNG Ying (Head, Tobacco and Alcohol Control Office, Department of Health), Mr Charles LEUNG Ka-lun (Assistant Commissioner (Operations), Correctional Services Department), Prof Kelvin WANG Man-ping (Professor, School of Nursing, The University of Hong Kong), Mr Henry TONG Sau-chai, MH, JP (COSH Chairman), Dr Johnnie CHAN Chi-kau, SBS, BBS, JP (COSH Vice-chairman) and Ms Vienna LAI Wai-yin (COSH Executive Director). Together with all guests of the event, they called for the public’s support to encouraging smoking cessation and strengthening the tobacco control efforts in Hong Kong, in order to build a smoke-free community and enjoy a smoke-free healthy life.

Mr Henry TONG, COSH Chairman said, “To create a healthier and more vibrant smoke-free Hong Kong, the Government, various sectors of the society, and citizens can all contribute. In addition to encouraging family members and friends to quit smoking as soon as possible, we should also actively support the tobacco control policies introduced by the Government, such as raising tobacco tax, to cultivate a smoke-free atmosphere in the society.” He encouraged smokers to make up their mind to quit as abstaining from smoking is beneficial at all stages of life, and it is never too late to quit. Moreover, he acknowledged the Government's determination in tobacco control and the implementation of effective measures such as raising tobacco tax. He also appealed for the active participation of different community sectors in tobacco control policy advocacy, including expansion of smoke-free areas, banning flavored tobacco products, and strengthening regulations on cigarette packaging, to achieve the vision of smoke-free Hong Kong.

Mr CHOI Kwok-wai, the champion of the 12th “Quit to Win” Contest, supported the ceremony in the capacity of emcee. Artists Ms Tiffany LAU and Mr Sky CHIU also took part in the event, reminded the public about the smoking hazards and promoted the quitting method via games and performance. They also encouraged smokers to make up the mind and determination to quit. The winners of the 14th “Quit to Win” Contest shared their experiences and tips of smoking cessation, while all successful quitters of the Contest and previous winners also attended to celebrate the joys of living a smoke-free life.

The Champion of the 14th “Quit to Win” Contest, Mr WONG Kwok-luen had smoked for over 20 years. He started smoking out of curiosity when he was young, and later developed a heavy addiction due to work-related stress. He consumed more than 30 cigarettes every day. His colleagues had consistently advised him to quit smoking, but he failed finally because of lacking determination. Last year, he found an electronic cigarette device in his daughter’s luggage and suspected her having a smoking habit. It struck him that his smoking behavior was setting a bad example for the next generation. In addition, he found his body function and his physical fitness declining while playing football and his supervisor, who had successfully quit smoking, encouraged and assisted him to quit. Adding to the significant increase in cigarette prices, he made the decision to enroll into the Contest and quit smoking. Mr Wong had a strong determination this time. He announced his quit decision to colleagues and friends. On the other hand, he sought assistance from smoking cessation counseling services and used nicotine gum to alleviate withdrawal symptoms such as dry mouth, irritability, and insomnia. He also diverted his attention to work and exercise to overcome the smoking urge. His family was pleasantly surprised and relieved for his achievement in quitting smoking, and his football teammates praised his noticeable improvement in football pitch. His youngest daughter even laminated his certificate of successful smoking cessation and placed it on his desk, making him deeply touched. He was guilty that his smoking behavior had negatively affected his own health and the lives of his beloved. Now, he realized that quitting smoking can bring joy to everyone around him and, more importantly, set a good example for his daughters.

First runner-up, Mr Joel YIP Tak-cheung who started smoking at the age of 15 years, developed a growing addiction to cigarettes over the years due to frequently smoking with friends in social gatherings. He had tried to quit for more than 10 times but all failed. His father, who quit smoking last year after being diagnosed with lung cancer, also advised Mr Yip to re-join the smoke-free life. In a Thailand trip last year, Mr Yip could not find flavoured cigarettes and was forced to smoke cigarettes of original tobacco favour and higher nicotine concentration. He felt uncomfortable and found the tobacco taste and odor nuisance. He realized that he would not have started smoking if there were no mint or other flavoured cigarettes. On their way back to Hong Kong, both decided to quit smoking together. Mr Yip immediately joined the Contest and announced to all his friends in the group chats. Also, he and his buddy supported and supervised each other's cessation progress. To avoid relapse, he carried nicotine gum to social gatherings to resist the cravings. To keep himself alert, he even requested his friends to snapshot and share in the group chat if he was found smoking. Having kicked the smoking habit, Mr Yip shared his joy of success with his friends. All, including those who were initially skeptical toward his attempt, gave him a big applause. Now, he does not need to go downstairs to smoke every day, and improve work efficiency significantly. His wife is delighted that there is no more secondhand smoke in the room, and she has more enjoyable travel experiences as she no longer needs to wait for Mr Yip to smoke.

Second runners-up, Mr LAU Sin-yeung and Ms LI Jiazhen, a couple who looked for improvement and advancement in life through participating into the Contest and supported each other in their cessation journey. Mr Lau started smoking at the age of 24 years and wrongly perceived it as a way to relieve unhappiness and stress. To improve his athletic performance in long-distance running, he had attempted to quit smoking in the past but was unsuccessful. On the other hand, Ms Li was influenced by her colleagues and mistakenly believed that smoking could alleviate work-related stress. As a female smoker, she believed that smoking would have a negative impact on her personal image and career development. Her supervisor had advised her multiple times not to smoke. To improve personal image and have better career prospects, she was introduced to the Contest by her colleague and recommended it to Mr Lau as well. Before joining the Contest, Mr Lau had reduced cigarette consumption by half because the increment of tobacco tax last year caused him a bigger financial burden. He believed that the ups and downs in life should not be the excuses to continue smoking, and decided to pursuit a smoke-free healthy lifestyle together with Ms Li. They developed a habit of running and exercising together. Mr Lau found running help distract from the craves of smoking. His athletic performance was improved significantly since he stopped smoking, and he registered for a marathon race to reinforce himself. He used to take breaks after running ten kilometers, but now he can run continuously for forty kilometers. It strengthened his resolve to persist. On the other hand, Ms Li found that the biggest challenge in cessation was the desire to smoke with her colleagues at work. To address this, she entrusted her employee pass to other colleagues, making it difficult for her to smoke during working hours and reducing her smoking urges. In order to uphold their commitment to abstain from smoking, they bantered that the one relapses would have to propose to another. Enjoying the smoke-free healthy lifestyle, the couple plans to utilize the money saved from buying cigarettes to accomplish other goals and plans of life.

COSH thanked the District Councils, district working partners and various organizations for their tremendous support to the “Quit to Win” Smoke-free Community Campaign.

The winners of 14th “Quit to Win” Contest (from left) Mr Joel YIP Tak-cheung (first runner-up), Mr WONG Kwok-luen (champion), Mr LAU Sin-yeung and Ms LI Jiazhen (second runners-up) shared their inspiring quit stories and tips with the audience.

Over hundred representatives from various organizations, successful quitters and previous winners from “Quit to Win” Contests attended the ceremony, to share and witness the joys of smoke-free healthy lifestyle.