Smokers wanting to break the habit should not put too much faith in pharmaceutical aids, smoking cessation specialist Dr Hayden McRobbie says.
At Forsyth Barr Stadium on Wednesday night, Dr McRobbie addressed about 80 southern health professionals on how to improve their assistance to smokers to quit.
Speaking to the Otago Daily Times before the forum, he said some smokers had unrealistic expectations of quit-smoking aids, which needed to be supported with counselling.
Dr McRobbie spends half his year as an associate professor at the University of London's Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, where his research includes determining whether group, or one-on-one counselling, is more effective for quitting smoking.
His research takes him into some of the most deprived areas of east London.
The rest of his year is spent at the Auckland University of Technology, where he is a senior lecturer in smoking cessation.
Dr McRobbie said New Zealand compared extremely well with other countries' smoking cessation efforts. Its spread-out population presented difficulties for supporting people, with fewer opportunities for group work.
He was aware of only New Zealand and Finland as having goals to end tobacco smoking - New Zealand aimed for 2025, Finland 2040.
He hoped one day the "crazy" habit would be a thing of the past but admitted that, if banned, some smokers would grow their own tobacco.
It would be good to see smoking rates fall from about 20% of the population to the same rate as that of New Zealand doctors, about 3%, he said.
Dr McRobbie said GPs sometimes feared they were "nagging" their patients by addressing smoking, but the reality was most smokers desperately wanted to quit, with most trying once a year to kick the habit.
A gap in the research was helping those who had relapsed to resume their efforts. Known as the "abstinence violation effect", the challenge for the smoking cessation experts was finding ways to get quitters back on track as quickly as possible.
Dr McRobbie obtained a position at the London university in the late 1990s while travelling there.