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Aboriginal Quitline - FAQs

What is Aboriginal Quitline?

Aboriginal Quitline is a counselling and support service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Victoria who want to quit smoking.

There are three Aboriginal counsellors available – Jamara, Andrea and Glen. We put Culture first and we value our Communities’ need to yarn with other Aboriginal people who know how to support our Community and kin with cutting down and quitting smoking. We strive to uphold the needs and traditions of Culture in everything we do; we respect Women’s and Men’s Business, we acknowledge the wisdom our Elders can bring and we always leave room for yarning and story-telling that helps mob feel connected and ready to quit on their terms and in their own time.

We are also specialists in quit medications and how to access them. We can guide you on how to access the Closing the Gap program for quit medications. We can help with strategies for dealing with cravings and triggers and ways to take care of yourself emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually throughout quitting. You can get in touch with Aboriginal Quitline by calling 13 78 48. You can also click the button below to go to the Request a Call page on the Quitline website to have an Aboriginal counsellor get in touch with you. 



We also collaborate with Aboriginal Health Services and Co-operatives all over the Victoria. If you’d prefer to talk to someone in Community that you know first to help you connect with Aboriginal Quitline, an Aboriginal Health Service or Co-operative can help you do that.

If you do choose to call Aboriginal Quitline on 13 78 48, remember to let the counsellor know you’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and we’ll make sure you get through to an Aboriginal Quitline counsellor to get Culturally-focussed support from the very first yarn. 

Q: How do I access Closing the Gap to get quit medications?

Anyone smoking around 10 cigarettes or more a day will probably need to use some type of medication to quit for good. Quitting smoking can be challenging for some people. Using some type of medicine can make a challenging task like quitting smoking as easy as it possibly can be.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can access quit medicines through Closing the Gap. Closing the Gap provides medications for quitting either free, or at low prices. It’s free with concession card, and even without a concession card the average cost of medication to quit is around $6.00 per prescription.

Medications you can access through Closing the Gap are Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) Patches or Gum or Lozenges, Champix and Zyban. Calling Aboriginal Quitline on 13 7848 is one way to take the first step. You can also contact your local Aboriginal Health Service or a mainstream GP clinic to talk to them about getting prescribed one of these quit medications. You will have to see a doctor to get the medication because there’s a couple of things they’ll need to check to help make sure the best medication for you is what you end up with. It’s actually pretty easy to access Closing the Gap. First thing to do is contact Aboriginal Quitline 13 7848 or a GP of your choice.

Q: How do I Use Nicotine Gum?

Use the 'Park & Chew' Method. Chew it about 5-6 times. That's going to cause the nicotine in the gum start to go into your mouth. You'll get a 'peppery' taste - you'll know it when you taste it. That's the nicotine. The idea is to let the nicotine from the gum go into the lining of your mouth. That way it'll get into your system quickest and have the best effect to help you get through cravings without smoking.

Chew the gum a few more times when that nicotine taste goes away, and more nicotine will come out of the gum again. The method is explained in this short video below:

Keep following this process until the gum doesn't have any taste anymore. When that happens, there's no more nicotine left. You can either chuck it out or keep chewing it for a while. Up to you. If you use the gum like this, it should last for up to 25-30 minutes.

Using the gum with the ‘Park & Chew' method as directed will help to avoid side-effects like stomach-ache, hiccups, and heartburn.

Aboriginal Quitline (13 7848) can help you arrange to access nicotine gum through Closing the Gap (see next Question). That's what we're here for; to help Victorian Aboriginal People be informed and empowered with knowledge of how to quit or cut down.

You can read more about nicotine gum here.

Q: Aboriginal Quitline sometimes ask me to yarn about my personal life? Why is that?

Our Culture and traditions are based on storytelling and yarning. As Community members at Aboriginal Quitline, we’re no different. We are first and foremost interested in your story, and not just the parts of your story about smoking.

Everyone has a story and each story is different. It goes on like that through the lives and lines of all Aboriginal people. We all live our own story, and we all have a story to tell.

Sometimes people might have stuff they need to share to be comfortable to start working towards quitting smoking. You can rest assured that is what you’ll receive - space to yarn and tell your story. You’ll get that back from our Aboriginal Counsellors too. We’re willing to yarn with you and tell parts of our stories that might help. We’re not gonna take over and start talking about ourselves too much (the yarning is about you and how we can support you). But sometimes people feel they need to know a bit of our history, and our story, to start to talk about quitting; so we’re open to sharing that with you. This is about all of us making change together.

It might be that right now, your story is that you don’t want to tell your story. You are the one who decides what parts of your story you share when you call Aboriginal Quitline. If you do need to share stories, then go for it. But same goes if you want to keep things private. It’s up to you. Your story come first… everything else comes second.

Q: I’ve tried nicotine patches before, but they give me rashes and they don’t stay stuck on my skin. What’s going wrong?

Most people who use nicotine patches don’t have any problems, but some people can experience side-effects. The three most common side effects are:

1) Patches falling off and not sticking to the skin
2) Patches causing skin rash
3) Patches causing vivid dreams and trouble sleeping.


Here’s some info to help deal with these side effects:


1) Patches falling off and not sticking to the skin properly

Skin needs to be clean, dry and oil-free for the patch to stick on properly. The first thing to do is make sure the area of skin that you want to put the patch on is clean, wiped with a wet cloth, and then dried thoroughly. If you’ve tried this and it’s still not working, then head to the chemist and get some medical tape to put over the top of the patch to help it to stay on.

2) Patches causing skin rash

Some people have more sensitive skin than others and patches cause a rash on the skin where it’s been stuck on. This is rare but it can happen. First thing to know is to put the patch on a different place every day. For example, put the patch on your right arm one day, and on the left on the next day. That way your skin will have time to recover. Steroid cream can help too - you’ll need to see a GP to get a prescription. Remember that steroid cream is strong stuff so always seek help from a GP or pharmacist before you use it to make sure it’ll be okay for you to use.

3) Patches causing vivid dreams and trouble sleeping

Nicotine patches come in two varieties – 16-hour and 24-hour. Mostly, dreams and trouble sleeping come from 24-hour patches. It’s always best to use these products as directed, but if you do have strange dreams and/or trouble sleeping while you’re wearing patches you can start taking them off at night before going to bed. If you’re having this issue with 16-hour patches, start taking the patch off an hour or two earlier before going to bed and use nicotine gum or lozenges to stay smoke free after taking off the patch. Same goes for when you wake up…Put a patch on as soon as you can and use some nicotine gum, lozenge, or nicotine mouth spray as soon as you wake up to replace the nicotine you might have lost out on by taking off the patch during sleep. Main thing to remember is, if you take the patches off when you’re sleeping, there’s a strong chance the dreams and trouble sleeping will stop and you’ll be back on track. See a GP or contact your Aboriginal Health Service for any further guidance needed at any time.

Using nicotine patches properly helps make it less likely you'll experience side effects. How to use them properly is explained in the short video below.

Q: Why do Aboriginal Quitline tell mob to drink water while we’re quitting smoking?

Drinking water is one of the best things you can do to help in quitting smoking.

The human body is like a sponge and it’ll hold onto stuff that we put in. The body will keep vitamins and nutrients from good food we eat and drink, and it’ll catch stuff called toxins from substances and foods we put in our body that aren’t so good for us as well. There’s heaps of toxins in tobacco that aren’t supposed to go into the body. And that is why drinking water when quitting is important, and it can help you quit.

Imagine you are cleaning up your kitchen. You’ve just finished cooking dinner and you’re wiping up the mess from making your meal. The kitchen is clean but you end up with a dirty sponge from cleaning up. What’s the first thing you do with the sponge? You clean it under the tap, right? With water. Well imagine the body of a person quitting smoking is that sponge. Drinking lots of water when quitting smoking makes the body react in a similar way to that sponge. Our bodies are more complicated than a kitchen sponge of course, but it’s similar in how the body uses water to flush out toxins and chemicals from smoking.

The recommended amount of water intake per day is about 3.5 litres of water per day for a male and about 2.5 litres of water a day for females. You don’t have to drink that much if you don’t want to though. Some people can feel that’s a lot. Some people say they don’t usually drink water at all. Like we always say at Aboriginal Quitline, it’s your call on where to take your quitting journey. You are your own person so we’re not going to tell you what to do. Just keep in mind that if you drink water while quitting you will probably find the whole process of quitting is all over quicker because you did.

Q: I’m really sick of smoking and I just want to get rid of ‘em. What do I do?

Aboriginal Quitline often helps people to use the STAR strategy when they’re preparing to quit smoking:

S = Set a quit date (or cut down)
T = Tell people that you’re quitting
A = Anticipate cravings
R = Remove tobacco products

S = Set a quit date OR cut down

How and when you quit is a personal thing. Some people prefer to set a date and get ready to quit on that day. Other people might prefer to cut down in their own time, which is called ‘cut-down-to-quit.’

Setting a ‘quit-day’ is all about setting a day to stop smoking and following through with that plan. It’s important to know what you’ll do to deal with withdrawals and cravings. What medications you might use, what you’ll do to keep busy, and who’s going to give you some support while you’re quitting.

‘Cut-down-to-quit’ is about setting milestones. Picking a cut-down number, cutting down to that number of cigarettes and then setting a new goal then reaching that one and so on, until you are totally quit. There’s no one way that works for everyone. That’s why Aboriginal Quitline wants to empower people to figure out which is going to work best.

T = Tell people that you’re quitting

Letting people know that you’re quitting smoking can really help. Telling others gives them a chance to help you with something that is important to you. You know when people say, “I just can’t imagine life without smoking?” That’s partly because their brain is ‘wired’ to feel like they need smoking. Changing back to the brain of a non-smoker happens after quitting, and you can make it happen as efficiently as possible by talking about quitting. Saying stuff like, “I am a non-smoker”, or, “I will never smoke again”. These statements are called affirmations. It is powerful stuff. So, when you’re ready, tell people you’re quitting.

A = Anticipate cravings

Some cravings are habitual: smoking while driving, in social situations, with coffee or alcohol. Others are psychological: smoking to cope with stress or anxiety. Chemical addiction plays a role too, which can be dealt with by using stuff like nicotine replacement therapy such as nicotine patches or gum. Everyone’s different and because of that everyone’s quitting process will be different. This is where Aboriginal Quitline can really help. We have training and knowledge to help you understand which of your smoking triggers are habitual, psychological, and chemical…so you can stay a step ahead and anticipate them by having a plan. 

R = Remove tobacco products

This is a bit of a ‘cleansing’ process to get rid of anything that is related to smoking. Get rid of any tobacco, ash trays, cigarette cases, pouches… whatever needs to go to help you feel as empowered and ready as possible quit. You won’t need that stuff once you’ve quit, so taking the plunge to get rid of it all can be a real confidence booster. It also sets intention that you’re committed! Doing things that support your intention to quit smoking changes the brain wiring in the same way as talking about quitting does. 

Q: How does deep breathing help to quit smoking?

Deep breathing is one of the best things that people can do to help them to quit smoking. It can help us to stay calm and chilled-out, lower anxiety, slow down our thoughts, help us sleep. It can help with heaps of stuff: mentally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually.

It can be hard to quit without some level of discomfort for a while. So doing things like deep breathing to promote a calm and relaxed feeling can help to get through the tough times. It gives our body and mind a strong dose of one of the elements that we need to survive and thrive - oxygen.

What we’re talking about is breathing deeply and slowly. That’s where the real benefits happen with breathing and taking in oxygen. Someone who is quitting smoking can find themselves feeling stressed at some level. When we get stressed, we breathe less deeply and we breathe faster. So, doing what’s called ‘returning to the breath’ can be a helpful way to reset and feel calmer.

If you’ve got asthma or a heart condition or any health conditions that you feel might need checking-in that deep breathing is okay, please see your doctor to confirm first. We want everyone to get through quitting as safely and as calmly as possible, so check in with your doctor if needed.

Q: I just quit smoking and I’m about to go on holidays. I’m nervous I won’t be able to stay quit. What do I do?

Holiday and gather-times are when we usually splurge a bit and have fun. If you’ve recently quit and you’re trying to make sure you don’t go back to smoking, there can be challenges because there can be people around who are smoking. Often it’s because there’s other stuff around too, like alcohol, that might have gone ‘hand-in-hand’ with smoking before you quit. It’s important to have some strategies ready if you need them. This is why it’s good to think about this now and make a plan before you go on holiday, get to the party or catch up with your mob. 

Here’s a few ideas:

  1. Take your NRT with you – If you’ve recently quit and you feel like you might need it, take some NRT patches, gum, lozenges or spray with you. You can keep it in your bag or your car - somewhere close by - so if you do get a craving, you’ve got it there to use.
  2. Tell your mob that you want to stay quit – Often we wanna avoid being the centre of attention when it comes to quittinut telling friends and family that you want to make sure you don’t smoke at the gathering can really help. It’ll help you stay out of situations that make you vulnerable to smoking. That way, you won’t get offered cigarettes, there’ll be less people smoking around you, you’ll have less temptation to smoke.
  3. Take something to do with your hands. It can feel a bit odd when you’re used to smoking and having something to do with your hands, to just sit still and not have anything to do. That’s why it can be good to grab a toothpick or a pen, a fidget spinner or a phone/tablet to mess with while you’re quitting while at a gathering or party.
  4. Remember to reward yourself. You’ve worked hard to quit, no doubt, so enjoy yourself. Keep safe but sometimes also have that extra piece of cake or that second plate of delicious food, if you want to. Buy yourself something nice. Do something nice for your kids. Rewards in quitting are important. They can recharge and replenish our energy and help us stay on track by supporting ourselves.

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