Published in HospoNation on 5 September 2014
Thirty students from hospitality and cookery school NZMA Sylvia Park have teamed up to stub out a habit that is rife in the hospitality sector.
The group have pledged to quit smoking for three months, as part of a national competition, the WERO Challenge, which kicked off on September 1. NZMA has submitted three teams of ten to compete against a host of other teams from across Auckland and New Zealand. The group with the most quitters after three months will win $5000 cash for a charity, community group or marae of their choice.
Level 3 hospitality student and challenge participant Ashley Lipine picked up the habit six years ago, at just 14. She was motivated to join the WERO challenge thanks to her three year-old daughter.
“I’d never thought seriously about quitting until I was at McDonald’s with my daughter and she picked up one of her chips and pretended to smoke. That’s when it really hit home to me that I have to stop, as much for her sake as mine,” says Ashley.
However she admits it will be hard.
“Lots of people in my family smoke – it’s pretty hard to get away from it. I find first thing in the morning, and after a meal, especially difficult.”
But that’s where the support of WERO comes in – they provide participants with gum, lozenges and patches to help alleviate cravings, and also deliver weekly mentoring sessions to the teams.
“I definitely think doing it as part of a group is really helpful. There are others going through exactly the same thing as you are, so there are people to talk to. Sometimes I feel like I can’t do it, but then I look around at the other girls in my class who are doing the challenge and it helps me feel more motivated. If they can do it, so can I!”
The WERO Challenge was developed by the University of Auckland in a bid to help Maori and Pacific Islanders quit smoking (though anyone can take part). Participants are supported by health practitioners and are tested each week with a smokerlyzer.
WERO Auckland regional co-ordinator Breviss Wolfgramm says evidence shows that smokers are four times more likely to beat the addiction if they do so in a group.
“They get a lot of support, there’s more accountability, and a reluctance to let their team mates down. This all aids in their success – it’s a unified battle. Also the competitiveness of the challenge is a strong motivator, especially when those participants are other whanau members or divisions of a corporate or training provider competing against one another,” says Wolfgramm.
This is the second national competition of its kind and it comes on the heels of the WERO pilot programme which ran in 2012 and achieved good success. More than a quarter of the participants were still smoke-free six months later.
The latest challenge has 90 teams from around the country vying for first place. More than 20 of those teams are from Auckland, and of those, Wolfgramm estimates about 90% are Maori and Pacifika participants. He is hopeful that at least 70% of those taking part will quit smoking permanently.