Wanganui’s district health board is making progress with its anti-smoking efforts but younger secondary school students still remain a prime concern.
Julie Tolladay-Poulton, smoke-free co-ordinator for Whanganui District Health Board, said the latest data from 2010 showed Maori girls were the most prevalent smokers and most of them were in low-decile schools.
Mrs Tolladay-Poulton said nearly one in five Maori girls smoked daily compared to one in 20 NZ European girls. Wanganui has double the number of daily smokers compared to national figures.
She told the WHDB community and public health advisory committee that, on the basis of the latest ASH survey, she had been meeting school principals to get more data from specific schools.
“The greatest increase has been shown up in the mid-decile schools and also in rural schools,” she said.
The committee is planning a no-smoking day campaign targeting rural schools especially.
Committee chairwoman Philippa Baker-Hogan suggested fresh faces be used to front anti-smoking campaigns and other agencies needed to be involved.
Board member Ray Stevens favoured a combined approach.
“The district council’s youth council is an ideal role model. But it needs an integrated approach with all the councils involved, including Wanganui, Ruapehu and Rangitikei,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mrs Tolladay-Poulton said her team was making progress in the battle to get people to stop smoking.
Tobacco control is one of the health targets the Government demands that district health boards improve and, in the past 12 months, the WDHB has made steady progress.
The programme aims to give smokers who come in to Wanganui Hospital advice on how to quit and offer them nicotine replacement therapies that include patches, lozenges and gum.
Mrs Tolladay-Poulton said at the end of the April-June quarter, 97 per cent of all hospitalised smokers had received advice and help.
She told the committee that those figures represented very good progress.
One of the key reasons for it had been the work put in by staff who had taken on the role of smoke-free champions.