Increasing number of patients seek help to beat nicotine habit A growing number of doctors have sought information on how to help their patients quit smoking since the ban on lighting up in public places took effect on January 1. Head of the community medicine department at the University of Hong Kong, Lam Tai-hing said interest by the public was also increasing, with calls to four university-run quit-smoking hotlines soaring 200 per cent in the past month. Attendance at a seminar for doctors yesterday reflected the growing demands on the medical profession, said Dr Lam who was a speaker at the seminar. 'Nearly two years ago, I gave a similar lecture on the same topic, which was attended by only about 20 doctors. But this time, more than 200 doctors joined and some were denied entry because they registered too late,' he said. 'It shows that doctors are more eager to help patients quit smoking, probably because the demand for smoking cessation services has surged under the new smoking ban.' The Medical Association, the Tobacco Control Office and the university co-organised the seminar. Louis Shih Tai-cho, vice-president of the Medical Association, also said members had dealt with more inquiries about how to quit smoking, such as the use of nicotine replacement therapy. The association, however, wanted doctors to take it a step further by asking patients about their history of smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke. 'It costs so little, but can work so effectively,' Dr Shih said. Dr Lam also called on the government to increase the tobacco tax. 'It is the best way to deter people, especially young people, from smoking,' he said. He also suggested that all cigarette packs contained a quit-smoking hotline. Tang Kwai-chuen, who smoked for about 40 years, quit with the help of a Department of Health clinic two years ago. He said determination was crucial in kicking the habit. 'I used to consume two packs of cigarettes a day, but I realised that my health was getting worse and worse. I tried to quit smoking by going cold turkey several times, but I always failed. So one day, I decided to seek professional help,' the 64-year-old said. Under the new ban, smoking is prohibited in all indoor workplaces, restaurants and karaoke lounges.