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Minority groups frequently miss out on targeted television cessation campaigns because of the high costs of television advertising. In New Zealand, some 32% of Pacific peoples living in the country are smokers, but this group makes up a comparatively low 3% of total calls to the national Quitline. Research showed that the lack of Pacific faces on television commercials resulted in Pacific peoples not realising that they could access free Quitline support.
The Quit Group responded by launching its first television commercial, featuring a Samoan man with his family in the background. It aimed to inform Pacific peoples about the risks of heart attack associated with smoking.
Increasing awareness and cessation attempts by Pacific smokers may be a long-term process. Many Pacific communities do not fully understand the risks associated with smoking, and health is viewed as a lower priority than other obligations such as church, family and work. In fact, smoking is still seen as a status symbol. Furthermore, while smoking has traditionally been socially unacceptable for women and taboo for them in public, smoking rates among younger Pacific women are increasing.
Quit New Zealand hopes to raise the percentage of Pacific callers to the Quitline to about 7% of all callers. Heavily subsidised nicotine replacement therapy removes most cost barriers to making a quit attempt. The Quitline also employs Pacific advisors who can communicate with callers in their own languages.
Response to the new commercial, which was launched in late March, was high and also resulted in interest throughout the Pacific, with news items about smoking and the campaign being aired in countries such as Samoa.