By Cara Sulieman
SMOKERS on a new scheme to help them quit may be wrongly accused of cheating if they live with a smoker.
The quit4u scheme was launched last month in Dundee to encourage people from deprived areas to stop smoking by giving them financial incentives.
And to prove their commitment to the programme smokers attend their pharmacy once a week and blow into a carbon monoxide testing machine that picks up the levels of CO2 in the system.
But concerns have been raised over the validity of the test results.
Neil Rafferty, from the pro-smoking group Forest is worried that patients may end up being accused of smoking when it is in fact a close relative.
He said: “Our concerns are with the reliability of the carbon monoxide machine.
“If they live with a smoker will that affect the reading?
“If all its doing is measuring levels picked up, then traces of tobacco chemicals could get into their lungs through passive smoking.
“It sounds as if its not going to work.”
Deny the claim
But NHS Tayside, who launched the scheme after the success of a similar one targeting mothers to be, deny the claims.
A spokeswoman from the health trust said: “There have been no problems on the Give Up For Baby scheme which this is based on. It’s highly unlikely that that anything like that would happen.
“You would have to be quite close to someone who was smoking for it to be picked up in your breath test. Even living with someone who smokes shouldn’t affect it.”
The information pack that is given out to participants at the start of the programme gives them information on the test results for the carbon monoxide and what can affect it.
If a high reading were taken one week then NHS Tayside wouldn’t kick them off the scheme – but wouldn’t say if they would still give them the money if they could explain the anomaly.
When asked if this meant smokers had to stay away from others who were smoking, a spokesman for NHS Tayside said that they “would be advised on how to keep the readings low.”
If quitters pass the breathalyser test they will be given a £12.50 reward in the form of a giftcard for their local Asda.
And they can only receive a maximum of 12 payments – although they have 18 weeks in which to achieve this.
Health chiefs say 1,800 people will take part in the two-year scheme and believe 50 per cent could be successful.
There is hope that the scheme will be rolled out to the rest of the country if it proves to be a success.
Shona Robison, Health Minister, said: “This is an innovative project and I’ll be following the results with interest to see if lessons can be learned for the rest of Scotland.”