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Maari Ma renews war on smoking

Thursday, 27th February, 2020

Associate Professor Renee Bittoun with her Carbon Monoxide testing monitor. She was in Broken Hill yesterday to promote Maari Ma’s program, Kiila Laana.PICTURE: Emily Ferguson Associate Professor Renee Bittoun with her Carbon Monoxide testing monitor. She was in Broken Hill yesterday to promote Maari Ma’s program, Kiila Laana.PICTURE: Emily Ferguson

By Emily Ferguson

Associate Professor Renee Bittoun visited Broken Hill yesterday to host education sessions with Maari Ma Health Professionals, as well as promote the launch of the Kiila Laana Program. 

Formally known as the Tackling Indigenous Smoking program, Kiila Laana is a Barkindji word which means growing. 

Associate Professor Renee Bittoun has an extensive bio and has worked with Maari Ma for over a decade providing specialist clinical consultation and education and training in the workforce. 

Assoc. Prof. Bittoun said the Kiila Laana program is about changing people’s perspectives on smoking in the community and helping those who do smoke to manage it.

“There’s a lot of really well educated people working here at Maari Ma and the idea of giving the program a recharge, which will be launched tomorrow, to show that we’re together trying to do something.

“It really is a longstanding agenda and a relaunch of the campaign to address smoking in a way that changes the culture around smoking and de-normalising smoking,” she said.

“The idea is that we’d like to see smoking gone from everybody’s thoughts. In some areas of Australia smoking prevalence is extremely low which is wonderful to see.

“So we want everyone to be on the same agenda and we want to see everybody involved in this, we all know smoking is bad for your health but that doesn’t mean everybody stops smoking. We’re sort of trying to get away from the word quit because nowadays, in a lot of people, those who could have quit have quit,” she said.

“It’s very expensive to smoke, it’s bad for you, everybody knows that, so why would you go on doing it if it’s not in your best interest to do it...

“We’re trying to remind people that there are components of cigarette smoking that are very addictive, nicotine is very addictive, especially in the way of smoking and inhaling it, including vaping. It’s very addictive and it’s sort of a consumer issue.

“Some people are very addicted to it and some people aren’t so it ranges, and the people who are really addicted don’t potentially understand the nature of this, they think I’ve got a bad habit, they think it calms them down - it’s okay I’ve got a stressful life and that’s why I smoke, but don’t quite understand the nature of what an addiction is.”

Professor Bittoun said changing smoking behaviours is complicated because some people think it’s a bad habit while others know it’s an addiction. Ways to change the smoking behaviour include smoking outside, making it an isolated activity and using medications to help.

“Some strategies about how to manage this better, we suggest that people smoke outside, that’s a simple one, changing your environment because if you know you can’t people tend to not want to,” she said.

“Number two, if you smoke outside don’t bring your coffee out with you, don’t do that together with something... try not to take it all with you, do your coffee inside, newspaper inside, mobile phone inside and smoke alone just you and your cigarette. This is more mindfulness, thinking and concentrating on the fact that that is what you do separate from everything else and once you start separating it, it changes the dynamics of it a lot.

“There are medications that help... often people who are addicted need stronger doses and combinations of doses of medications that actually help a great deal so we can strongly recommend medications.”

Professor Bittoun said people’s level of need for nicotine depends on their biology and how quickly the nicotine is processed.

“Biologically, what you do with the substance in your body, liver and brain is different in different people. For example, some people can drink alcohol a lot and some people get really drunk really quickly, it’s a liver function thing... it’s an alcohol dehydrogenase (an enzyme) which helps break down alcohol. We have the same with nicotine, there are people who excrete nicotine quickly and there are people who excrete it really slowly, so if your body excretes nicotine fast then you need more of them, that’s all there is to it, it’s your liver.”

There are a lot of complicated effects of smoking.

“Medications are affected by smoking, almost every medication a person takes, doesn’t matter what it’s for, whatever you’re taking is made weaker because you smoke. If you don’t smoke, the tablets work better and you need less of them.”

The Kiila Laana Launch is on today at Maari Ma’s new building on Argent Street, the Old Silver King Service Station and Tri State Safari’s building. There will be a barbeque lunch as well as the planting of an Emu Bush by directors. Carbon Monoxide testing is also available, and opportunities to join the Kiila Laana program. You can also join the program at any time by contacting Maari Ma.

WHAT: Kiila Laana Program Launch.

WHEN: Today, from 11am - 1pm.

WHERE: Maari Ma (Old Silver King Service Station) Argent Street.

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