Whanganui DHB hails easier access to Smokerlyzer testing


19 September 2018

Gonville Health Pharmacy technician

Leanne Allan holding a specialised

maternity Smokerlyzer

It’s now easier for smokers in the Whanganui District to find out just how healthy – or unhealthy - their lungs are, thanks to more pharmacy staff in the region being trained in how to use specialised breath-testing devices.

The state of the art devices called Smokerlyzers aren’t the same as those used to target drink drivers though. Instead, they measure the amount of carbon monoxide in a person’s lungs.

Making the devices more readily available is part of a suite of nicotine replacement therapy initiatives aimed at helping smokers in the Whanganui region to quit.

Whanganui DHB’s Smokefree project leader Rosie McMenamin says around 20 Smokerlyzers are available in total across the Whanganui district, including at Whanganui Hospital, the Whanganui Regional Stop Smoking Service, and through some lead maternity caregivers. However, having pharmacy technicians trained in how to use them means the tests are now more accessible than ever.

“To make it easier for smokers, testing is now available at Aramoho, Central City, Gonville, Wicksteed and Marton pharmacies,” Mrs McMenamin says. “That means people can now talk to any staff member at those pharmacies about getting their lungs tested.”

Mrs McMenamin says pharmacy staff are non-judgemental so there’s no reason not to go in and get support. “It’s free and you can find out just how healthy your lungs are.”

The devices count the parts per million of carbon monoxide (CO) in a smoker’s lungs, giving a percentage reading which can then be measured against a traffic light system to let the smoker know just how severe the CO level in their lungs are.

To use a Smokerlyzer, the person takes a deep breath, holds it for fifteen seconds, then blows into a disposable mouth piece on the device. A digital screen then counts down before displaying the percentage reading.

Specialised maternity Smokerlyzers are also available, and can tell a pregnant woman just how much of her unborn child’s blood is being poisoned, as well as measuring the CO in the woman’s breath.

Mrs McMenamin says Smokerlyzers are a great tool for encouraging people to quit smoking - especially smokers who are ambivalent about quitting.

“Those people who are sitting on the fence, seeing that percentage of carbon monoxide in their breath can give them that extra push to quit,” she says.

People can also talk to their pharmacist about getting free nicotine patches, lozenges and gum as well as where to go for additional support to quit smoking.