Nicky Gray will always be a recovering smoker.
After giving up in his 20s, only to take it back up again in his 40s, he said smoking would always be a temptation to contend with.
But thanks to a new approach, Mr Gray thinks he might have finally kicked the habit – for good.
An emergency relief worker at City Mission, Mr Gray was one of about 14 employees who recently took part in Mission to Quit.
The six week program was developed in partnership with Healthy Tasmania and based on research into the most effective ways to quit smoking.
Participants of Mission to Quit were offered free access to Champix medication, counselling and $80 reward vouchers for program participation.
For Mr Gray, smoking offered an escape in tough times, but quickly became an addiction he couldn’t control.
“I gave up when I was 22 when our first child was born and I gave up cold turkey back in those days,” he said.
“We didn’t have the luxury of some of the quit smoking aids we have now. I then took it up again when I was around 43 and I would never have believed I would do it, but I did.
“I hit a bit of a low point in my life and smoking was somewhat of a comfort blanket, as it is for so many.
“It is an escape, it is an addiction. Whether it be food, whether it be betting or drinking – whatever. It is an addiction and that was my time out.”
Mission to Quit was made possible by the state government’s Healthy Tasmania Community Innovation grants.
With the first round of grants released last year, Health Minister Michael Ferguson said it was wonderful to see success stories, like Mr Gray.
“These grants are all about partnering with the community to make Tasmanians lives better,” he said.
“They aim to encourage healthy lifestyle choices, providing funding of up to $25,000 for local activities that promote healthy eating, physical activity, quitting smoking, and encouraging community connections.
“Community grants programs like this one are part of our whole-of-government preventative health plan, which will help us reduce Tasmania’s smoking and obesity rates to below the national average by 2025, and become the healthiest population in Australia by 2025.”
Tasmania continues to have the highest rate of smokers in Australia, with an estimated 16 per cent of smokers, compared to 14 per cent of people nationally.
Mr Gray said in his work, he saw the daily struggles of people who were addicted to smoking. He said in most cases, nearly all clients struggling with financial difficulties, were smokers.
“I have often said that I reckon 95 per cent of the people I meet who smoke, want to give it away, but don’t know how,” he said.
“I work in the emergency relief area, dealing with people who are battling with financial difficulties every day and a great percentage of them smoke.
“I am not there to judge them on that – as they say there is nothing worse then a reformed smoker.
“But it is about being able to talk to them about that, and acknowledge that. I always felt that you can only lead people when you’re being yourself.”
City Mission chief executive Stephen Brown said community engagement and education were vital steps in achieving better health outcomes, with programs like Mission to Quit providing a platform for change.
“The funding was made available and for us, it was about a program that would assist people in improving their health outcomes,” he said.
“The learnings for us from the program is that it does produce results when we bring people together.
“Having a six week program with the right resources and giving people time to work on some of those issues, for their betterment.”
As for Mr Gray, he said giving up smoking was different for everyone.
“I could light one up now and I know that urge will always be with me, but that’s where it is mind over matter because I will just tell myself I am a non-smoker,” he said.
“I need to keep reminding myself of that and being aware of what my triggers are, and particularly what will set me on that path.”
- Applications for the Tasmanian Government’s Healthy Tasmania Community Innovations Grants are open until November 2. More information can be found at here.