Monday, September 27, 2004

Quit line for Ohio tobacco users


Ohio has thrown out a lifeline that puts help literally at the smoke-stained fingertips of people who want to quit using tobacco.

Stop, call and quit now
Ohio's Tobacco Quit Line - (800) 934-4840 - is staffed by counseling specialists from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays; and 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Voice-mail messages can be left anytime and will be returned within 24 hours. For more information, go to www.standohio.org.
The toll-free Tobacco Quit Line should be one of the biggest boons to come out of the 1998 settlement between 46 states and the U.S. Tobacco Product Manufacturers. Ohio Senate Bill 192 set up the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation to use Ohio's share of the settlement to reduce the state's high smoking rates.

In 2001, Ohio ranked fourth in the nation in adult smokers. By 2002, it dropped to eighth (26.6 percent of adults). In Kentucky, it's 32.6 percent.

Ohio's Quit Line is the state's latest bid to knock smoking rates down further. The Quit Line's reach is limited only by public awareness and tobacco users' willingness to quit. Each year, 18,900 Ohio adults die from illnesses caused by tobacco use.

Foundation executive director Mike Renner says a trial run of the Quit Line in Cleveland, Toledo and Athens, Ohio, produced a success rate five times that of smokers who try to quit "cold turkey" on their own. Calls and counseling are free and confidential. A specialist works out with the caller an individualized plan and quit date, and checks back to keep the plan on schedule. On average it takes about five phone calls. Quit specialists also encourage callers to connect with local smoking-cessation programs, some of which may have already received foundation grants.

Face-to-face local counseling would seem the ideal, but Renner says 97 percent of those who sign up don't go. People can find a thousand excuses not to go to a session, but "direct" counseling by phone is convenient and easy. It's quitting that's hard. The foundation went with this program recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ohio plans to spend $4.5 million a year the next three years on getting the word out. That may sound like a big number, until you hear that tobacco manufacturers spend nearly $500 million a year promoting their products in Ohio.

The Quit Line is part of a multi-front strategy, including programs to prevent youth from starting tobacco use. In Ohio, 32.6 percent of high school students report tobacco use, versus 22.4 percent nationally.

Renner also sees a Quit Line bonus in Ohio's movement to remove secondhand smoke from bars, restaurants and other hospitality industry sites. Smoke-filled bars can be a powerful temptation to relapse for those who have quit. "At a bar where everybody else is doing it," he said, "it can be a trap for people who have quit."

Do your friends or family a favor: Throw them the Quit Line lifeline number.

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