S.C. Tobacco Quitline offers support

Margaret Brackett Contributing Columnist

October 16, 2013

Sharon Biggers, director of S.C. Tobacco Prevention and Control, is a special guest this week as she addresses S.C. Tobacco Quitline and its recent successes, and also promotes tobacco education, prevention and cessation.

Over the past two years, DHEC has helped more than 30,000 of the state’s tobacco users with services to help them quit smoking. The S.C. Tobacco Quitline is a free telephone based comprehensive tobacco treatment service that provides one-on-one counseling.

Each caller is assigned a personal Quit Coach to help them through the quitting process. The program is science based and clinically proven to help participants quit smoking and stay quit for the long run. To access the Quitline, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784 -8669).

Quitline services are available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. It is available for tobacco users ages 13 and older, and also directs callers to local cessation programs, if available. After the initial call, participants work with their Quit Coaches to schedule subsequent counseling sessions.

The program prioritizes those in most need of cessation help — additional sessions are provided to those who are uninsured, on Medicaid or pregnant. In some cases free nicotine patches or gum are available. There is also a Youth Support Program for young people who want to quit or who are court appointed.

It is important for us to get the word out about the availability of these services so that people who need the help can take advantage of it.

Recently, CDC released an article in The Lancet discussing the success of their first-ever national media campaign which helped states promote the availability of their Quitlines. This campaign, titled “Tips from Former Smokers,” was the first time a federal agency had developed and placed paid advertisements for a national tobacco education campaign.

The ads featured emotionally powerful stories of former smokers living with smoking—related diseases and disabilities. The campaign encouraged people to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, the toll-free number to access quit support across the country, or visit a quit-assistance website.

The study surveyed thousands of adult smokers and nonsmokers before and after the campaign, and results showed that the campaign exceeded the CDC’s ambitious expectations.

According to the study, estimated 1.6 million smokers attempted to quit smoking because of the ads. Additionally, more than 200,000 Americans quit smoking immediately following the three-month campaign, of which more than 100, 000 will likely quit smoking permanently.

In South Carolina, results were equally as encouraging, as the Quitline received a record number of callers registering for services. In the end, 29 percent of those participating in Quitline services were able to quit, resulting in a 4,660 new quitters. Overall, this projects an almost $30 million dollars in cost savings resulting an investment for the operating cost and promotion of the Quitline.

Good reasons to quit smoking

— Within 20 minutes after you smoke your last cigarette: Your body begins a series of changes that continue for years.

— 20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate drops.

— 12 hours after quitting: Carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

— 2 week to 3 months after quitting: Heart attack risk begins to drop, lung function improves.

— 1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease.

— 1 year after quitting: Your added risk of coronary heart disease is half of smokers.

— 5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.

— 10 years after quitting: Your lung cancer death rate is about half of a smoker’s; risk of cancers of mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas decreases.

— 15 years after quitting: Your risk of coronary heart disease is back to that of a non-smoker.

The average price of a pack of cigarettes nationwide is $5.51, and that doesn’t include local cigarette or sales taxes. Add those, $5.51, a pack a day smoker spends more than $2,000 a year that otherwise could be a down payment of a car.

The only reason to quit smoking that matters — or works — is the one that matters to you. One reason might be to save your life. One in five deaths in the United States is smoking related, and more deaths are caused each year from tobacco use than from HIV, illegal drug and alcohol use, automobile injuries, suicides and murders combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cigarettes and cigarette smoke contributes to many diseases, namely coronary disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It’s one thing to drop dead, but it is another to be stuck in a chair breathing with an oxygen tank because you have emphysema.

A new study finds the increased use of electronic cigarettes and shows a need for FDA regulation.

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. They turn nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. Most e-cigarettes are manufactured to look like conventional cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some resemble everyday items such as pens and USB memory sticks.

As the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, consumers of e-cigarettes currently have no ways of knowing whether e-cigarettes are safe for their intended use, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or if there are benefits associated with using these products.

Additionally, it is not known if e-cigarettes may lead young people to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.

In September 2010, FDA issued a number of warning letters to electronic cigarette distributors for various violations of the Federal FDA including “violations of good manufacturing practices, making unsubstantiated drug claims, and using the devices as delivery mechanisms for active pharmaceutical ingredients.”