Beechworth hosts tackling tobacco conference for mental health and alcohol and other drug workers

DIFFERENT APPROACHES: As this 2007 photograph indicates, some campaigns to discourage people from smoking have been quite confronting.
DIFFERENT APPROACHES: As this 2007 photograph indicates, some campaigns to discourage people from smoking have been quite confronting.

Treating smoking as a medical issue rather than a lifestyle choice has helped change the way people are supported to quit.

Alfred Health’s Emma Dean, who will speak at a Beechworth conference on Thursday, said more health services were now talking to all patients about smoking.

“We’re bringing it up front and centre and putting it out there as a chronic disease where people need support to be able to manage that addiction or that dependency,” she said.

Ms Dean, the acting population health and health promotion co-ordinator, said Alfred Health’s 2014 digital campaign Start the Conversation reversed the traditional approach to quitting.

“Usually the thought is if someone wants to quit, they should seek support from a health professional,” she said. “(Now) the call to action is actually to the health professionals.

“The whole purpose of the campaign is to emotionally compel health professionals to have these conversations with their patients and their clients.”

The Beechworth conference for mental health and alcohol and other drug workers will explore effective ways to help people to quit smoking.

Organised by a partnership of mental health and substance treatment services, Albury Wodonga Health, Gateway Health and MIND, the event will also hear from Quit Victoria and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Albury Wodonga Health’s Gary Croton, who works in dual diagnosis capacity building, said people dealing with mental health or substance abuse concerns were more at risk of a smoking-related issue.

“Most people who do smoke are interested in changing smoking and there’s been lots of developments in terms of how well we can respond,” he said.

Mr Croton said it was important people had “a menu of options” available to them.

“There’s not one size fits all, everyone’s issue with smoking is different to the next person and the solutions are often slightly different,” he said.

“Just having the chance to have a conversation with somebody, an open conversation where you can discuss your issues with smoking, that can be a really powerful thing towards change, being given that opportunity.” 

Ms Dean said a combination of medical and behavioural supports gave clients the best chance of quitting smoking, which remained a leading cause of preventable death and disease in Australia.

“When you catch up with someone that you’ve seen previously and they’ve managed to quit, it gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling inside, I must say,” she said.