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March 1, 2011

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

How-to-quit clinics unpopular

A YEAR after they started offering special clinics to help people quit smoking, Shanghai hospitals are finding few takers.

Poor public awareness of the medical help available and the cost of medication are blamed for the low uptake.

Like many other big hospitals in Shanghai, Zhongshan Hospital last year started offering a weekly clinic service to help smokers quit.

Doctors say that when the citywide anti-smoking campaign started, accompanied by intensive media coverage, they were inundated with people looking to kick the habit. However, in the months that followed, numbers dwindled.

"Now hardly anyone comes to the quit-smoking clinic," Fan Zhongzhen, director of the outpatient department office with Zhongshan Hospital, said yesterday.

"Most Chinese people have never considered seeking medical help to quit smoking," she added.

The situation is the same at most of the other hospitals offering a stop-smoking service, Shanghai Daily found.

Another concern is the cost of the program, according to medical experts.

Initially, pharmaceutical companies offered free samples in order to promote their products, but there are no freebies now.

Most Chinese people don't consider it urgent for heavy smokers to seek professional help to quit smoking, said Dr Lu Hanjing, director of Tongji Hospital's respiratory department.

"Smoking is medically defined as an addictive disease which needs medication and professional direction," said Lu, who holds lectures to promote quit-smoking clinics.

She said treatment could cost up to 6,000 yuan (US$913) and as this is not covered by the medical insurance, most people don't want to spend as much.

"We have set aside every Friday afternoon for the quit-smoking clinic," Lu said. "But since there are so few people attending, our doctors also see other respiratory patients then."


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