Stories & innovations
The purpose of this page is to share ideas and experiences with other health workers.
Smokerlyzers get people talking!
Smokerlyzers are a range of breath Carbon Monoxide (CO) monitors and testers that measure the amount of CO in exhaled breath. The more you smoke, the higher your CO reading will be. The use of Smokerlyzers at community events and as part of health promotion programs has become very popular with health workers. Andy Mark of the Heart Foundation encourages health workers to use Smokerlyzers where they are available. Andy tells us that "Smokerlyzers are great to use to engage people to discuss quitting smoking."
What CO does to the body
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a tasteless, odourless poisonous gas and is a by-product of tobacco smoke.
- When inhaling smoke, CO is absorbed into blood through the lungs, binding in red blood cells instead of oxygen (O2), then transported through the body.
- 10% of the blood cells of a very heavy smoker may be taken up by CO, leaving less room for O2 in the blood.
- When people stop smoking the amount of CO in the blood drops very quickly.
- CO also affects the heart, circulation, breathing & in pregnancy
Heart: to compensate for the shortage of O2, the heart has to work harder (beat faster) to get enough O2 to all parts of the body. The heart itself gets less O2 increasing the risk of heart damage.
Circulation: the blood thickens and the arteries to get coated with a thick fatty substance. This causes circulation problems and high blood pressure, with increased risk of a heart attack & stroke. Hands & feet can become colder as less blood circulates to extremities.
Breathing: the reduced supply of O2 means can easily get out of breath when exercising as there is little extra O2 available for the increased demand. The lack of O2 can also cause tiredness and lack of concentration.
Pregnancy: the supply of O2 required by the baby for healthy growth is reduced when the pregnant mother smokes. This can increase the risk of the baby being born underweight or with defects and even the danger of SIDS.
How to use a Smokerlyzer
- The ‘Smokerlyzer’ tests the level of CO in the body through a breath test
- Can be used during a quit attempt to show CO levels dropping as smoking is reduced
- The Smokerlyzer is best used 15 minutes after last cigarette smoked
- When you’re ready, double click the Breath Test icon
- CLIENT: take a deep breath and hold for 10-15 seconds
- CLIENT: blow slowly into mouthpiece, for as long as you can (completely emptying lungs if possible)
Tips for organising Smoke Free events in your community
Step 1: Find out who’s involved in organising the event and if there’s a member of the organising committee who might be a tobacco champion.
Step 2: Get in touch with the organisers well in advance, by phone if possible.
Step 3: Send a letter to the organiser so they can bring it to the organising committee.
Step 4: Let the organiser know that going smoke free will not mean extra work for them.
Step 5: Use your social and community networks to organise a meeting with the organising committee and work with the event organisers to promote the event as smoke free.
Step 6: Organise to go to the venue to have a look at the facilities.
Step 7: Discuss where a suitable smoking area would be (if they want to have a smoking area).
Step 8: Adding value to the event will encourage organisers to go smoke free. For example you might set up a stand to conduct brief interventions using a Smokerlyzer and providing SmokeCheck resources and quit smoking information. You could also offer a grant, sponsor a small prize, contribute to advertising if it includes the smoke free message or make an in-kind contribution, for example helping out with some photo copying. Whatever you decide to do it’s a good idea to get written agreement from the committee and your organisation.
Step 9: You could develop a “This is a smoke free event” banner to provide on loan to event organisers in your community. Check out the Smoke Free banner on our sharing resources page here!
Step 10: Provide a short script to be made as a Public Announcement (PA), for example, “This is a smoke free event, if you wish to smoke please use the dedicated smoking area by the exit”.
Concerns about compliance and the potential for confrontation are often a big concern for organising committees but usually signage and requests not to smoke are enough. It is important that there is some strategy in place that supports compliance. Event employees should be given some coaching and responsibility to politely reminded people that it is a smoke free event, simply asking “did you know this is a smoke free event?” may be all that’s needed to gain compliance.
Thanks to Debra Welsby from SESIAHS for her input
Speak out for better health for your community
There may be a particular health issue in your community that you are concerned about. Here are some things you might consider when drawing attention to this health issue and working to improve the health of your community.
1. Identify your health message e.g. Smoking harms our community.
2. Have a clear aim e.g. to make the Sydney Easter Show 2011 Smoke Free!
3. What is the health implication? e.g. Children and staff in workplaces suffer poor health when breathing second hand smoke.
4. Use local media e.g. get in touch with local papers, Aboriginal and other community radio. Maintain good contacts to help influence local councils, local State/Federal Members of Parliament(MPs) to support good measures and necessary funding and resources.
5. Gain support from non-government organisations.
6. Refer to experts, reports and the laws on tobacco and health.
7. Write a letter to your local council, state and Federal MPs.
For further information visit
- See the recommendations in the National Preventative Health Taskforce report on tobacco
- Use the worldwide Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) treaty and FCTC guidelines to urge local government and MP (state/territory/federal) support.
With thanks to Stafford Sanders from Action on Smoking and Health Australia (ASH)