State restores free Tobacco Quitline program for smokers

A cigarette butt - Courtesy image
A cigarette butt
— image credit: Courtesy image

For adults trying to quit tobacco, the fight just got a little easier with the full restoration of free help and advice through the state's Tobacco Quitline program.

New funding approved by lawmakers in Olympia, along with federal funding from the Centers for Disease Control, means that smokers looking for help in quitting the difficult addiction can once again use the Quitline at no cost.

According to the state's Department of Health (DOH), funding cuts in 2011 had eliminated "free Quitline help for many, including people without health insurance."

"For the last year we've been the only state without Quitline help for people without insurance. That's unacceptable," said Gov. Christine Gregoire in a news release. "The Tobacco Quitline truly is a state service lives and money. We must be there when people need help."

All adults in Washington, regardless of insurance status, can once again call the toll-free Quitline for help in kicking their tobacco and nicotine habits. The number is (800) 784-8669 (800-QUIT-NOW). Spanish speakers can dial (877) 266-3863 (877-2NO-FUME).

The Quitline provides free counseling, a personal quit plan, a quit kit and referrals to local resources. The DOH notes that eligible callers can also get a supply of nicotine patches or gum.

The DOH indicates that more than 6,500 people in the last year had tried to access the Quitline for help, but were turned away because they didn't qualify for service. The state plans on contacting those people to make them aware that the Quitline is once again accessible to anyone, regardless of insurance status.

The Quitline has been an important resource in lowering the number of smokers in the state, according to the DOH. Since its inception in 2000, the Quitline, combined with other stop smoking efforts, has reduced adult smoking in the state by 30 percent.

More than 170,000 people have received help from the Quitline in the last 12 years. The estimated 329,000 former smokers represents an overall savings of $3 billion in future health care costs, according to the state.

While the restoration of the Quitline is vital, the DOH notes that the tobacco industry spends approximately $122 million a year to attract new smokers.

In Washington, the DOH notes about 50 youth start smoking every day, and approximately 7,900 people die every year from tobacco-related diseases.


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