BETTER health and prizes are benefits for quitters, but who will ensure they are not cheating?
International Quit&Win 2004 is a smoking cessation competition that will be held in May in about 100 countries worldwide. Adult daily smokers and other tobacco users who have smoked for at least one year can take part in the contest.
Under the rules, competitors try to abstain from smoking and using tobacco products for a four-week period, from May 2 to 29. Participants need to fill in an application form, in Slovakia available at www.uvzsr.sk, and send it to the their national coordinating office by May 2.
The contest is managed by the National Public Health Institute, in Helsinki, Finland, which has coordinated the national Quit&Win campaigns every other year since 1994 in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the Quit&Win website, the number of smokers participating in the contest grew from 60,000 in 1994 to nearly 700,000 in 2002. The 2004 Quit&Win campaign will target up to one million tobacco users in 100 countries from all continents.
Ľubica Bizíková from Slovakia's State Health Institute, which will run the national Quit&Win campaign, told The Slovak Spectator on April 7 that the country was joining the competition for the sixth year.
"On the international scale we expect one million smokers to participate in the contest and of course we want to inspire as many smokers as possible in Slovakia as well. It is hard to estimate, but I hope privately that at least 2,000 participants will join the Slovak contest," Bizíková said.
The international prize is $10,000 but national winners will receive $2,500 (€2,071). Apart from that, Slovak contestants can also win a desktop computer, a $1,000 (€829) holiday, air purifiers, and a spa holiday.
But according to Bizíková, "The goal of the competition is to win one's health, the prizes are only an extra."
The WHO estimates as many as 70 percent of smokers declare that they want to quit the habit but never do for various reasons, or try and fail.
"We offer them a motivation, we give them an exact day to start and the vision of the award also plays its role. The form of the contest is positive motivation and its main importance is that it spreads the anti-smoking message to many people around the world," said Bizíková.
According to 2002 data from the National Statistics Office, as many as 40 percent of Slovaks smoke, of whom about 27 percent smoke daily and 13 percent occasionally.
The consequences of smoking are damaging - as many as four million people die every year from smoking inflicted diseases. In Slovakia the death toll is about 11,000 a year.
Slovak results from the previous years suggest that the competition helps cut or completely eliminate the habit of smoking among competitors.
According to Bizíková, internal surveys of participants suggest that 35 percent of them carry on without smokes for at least one year after the contest, and another 25 percent smoke less than they did before.
19. Apr 2004 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová