Engaging the community in a social contract to quit smoking is a powerful incentive, Heart Foundation Tasmania chief executive Graeme Lynch says.
The tobacco free communities trial was launched on the state’s East Coast at Triabunna, Swansea, and Bicheno.
The trial was designed by University of Tasmania researcher Dr Mai Frandsen, and offers participants vouchers with local businesses as an incentive to quit smoking.
Mr Lynch said this kind of “imaginative thinking” played an important role in addressing Tasmania’s tobacco problem.
“We already have evidence that strategies like protecting people from exposure to tobacco smoke through increasing the number of smoke-free areas, using price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco, and public awareness campaigns about the risk of smoking and the need to quit – and stay quit – are effective in helping people to kick the habit,” he said.
He said the East Coast program was taking a further step.
“It’s not just the voucher that’s the key here,” Mr Lynch said.
“You’re in a small town. You know lots of people, and they know you. You’ve just pledged to keep off the smokes, and your fellow community members have seen you do it.
“That’s a mighty powerful incentive to keep your promise.”
Mr Lynch said it was important to keep "chipping away” at the problem, with tobacco placing a huge burden on the state’s health system.
“Studies show people associate smoking with lung cancer but are typically unaware of the raft of other conditions that can be brought on by smoking,” he said.
Mr Lynch said conditions stemming from tobacco usage include strokes, type two diabetes, macular degeneration, low bone density, lower fertility, and heart disease.
“The East Coast program is a sign that the community is taking the smoking problem seriously,” he said.
“I commend the idea, and hope to see it flourish.”