The recent rollout of a community-based incentive to quit smoking in Tasmania could be well applied to regional areas, including Shepparton.
The Tobacco Free Communities program has been running out of the local pharmacies in the Tasmanian East Coast towns of Bicheno, Swansea and Triabunna, funded by the Tasmanian Government.
Under the program, participants receive a $50 voucher for each week they don’t smoke in the first month, followed by another $50 voucher for their second smoke-free month, and a final one if they make it to the third month.
I know what all you non-smokers out there are thinking...
Why can’t we get paid in vouchers for never smoking at all?
But the reality is the once tried-and-true methods to deter people from smoking have simply run their courses.
The steps taken to de-glamorise smoking began all the way back in the 1970s when cigarette advertising was banned in Australia.
It took me by surprise that as early as the 1950s, studies were being conducted that showed a link between cigarette smoke and lung cancer.
It is crazy to think that it then took the government more than three decades since the ban of cigarette advertising to then ban smoking in enclosed public places.
In 2012, plain packaging was introduced to cigarette products after there had been warnings already on packages for many years.
In recent decades we have seen the ban increase to apply to junior sporting locations and outside dining areas where smokers must be at least 10m away.
Taxes upon taxes have been applied annually in recent years so the cost to smoke has become increasingly unviable.
While these steps have been incredibly effective thus far in reducing the amount of people that take up smoking as well as contributing to the level of people trying to quit smoking, The Australian reported an increase in the number of smokers in Australia last year.
Similarly, we learnt via ABC’s Triple J Hack program recently that cigarette companies are now using cunning methods to advertise their products in an ever-growing and unruly social media marketing space.
The program reported Instagram influencers were being contacted by cigarette companies to subtly post their product in a desirable way. While doing something like this would be incredibly illegal for an Australian-based influencer, that does not mean an Aussie social media user will not see someone from overseas posting the product.
So with the general smoking population tiring of the old deterrents and cigarette companies becoming more cunning than ever when it comes to advertising, offering people a total of $300 through store vouchers doesn’t seem like such a bad idea to me.
Instead of just giving people cash for quitting, the program offers vouchers at local businesses which prompts participants to be accountable within their local community and not light up outside the very business they’ve just spent the voucher with.
Secondly, participants are required to do regular carbon monoxide breath testing to prove they haven’t been smoking and are also breathalysed at the start of the trial to ensure they are an addicted smoker.
From all reports, the ‘‘waving a carrot’’ method has already had great results and is something that could be useful when it comes to reducing smoking rates in regional areas.
Tara Whitsed is a News journalist.