Vidyya Medical News Service
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Volume 6 Issue 38 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 7-Feb-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 8-Feb-2004
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HHS announces national smoking cessation quitline network

Earlier this week, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced plans for a national network of smoking cessation quitlines to provide all smokers in the United States access to the support and latest information to help them quit.

"The combination of lives lost and the cost of treating smoking-related diseases makes our investment in smoking cessation services imperative," said Secretary Thompson. "By providing smoking cessation resources to the 46 million adults in this country who smoke, we can make an enormous improvement in public health."

To provide the highest level of assistance to smokers across the country that want to quit, this year HHS will establish a new toll-free telephone number that will serve as a single access point to the national network of quitlines. By providing one-easy-to-remember number, smokers in every state will have access to the tools they need to quit smoking.

The program has three main components:

  • States with existing quitlines will receive increased funding to enhance existing state quitline services. States could use these supplements to expand their hours of operation, hire bilingual counselors, build referral linkages with local health care systems, or promote quitlines to more individuals.
  • States that do not have quitlines will receive grants to establish them to provide their residents the tools that they need to quit smoking.
  • HHS' National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Information Service telephone counselors will provide assistance to individuals in states without quitlines.

"The benefit of this network is that it provides a single access point for smokers so that every smoker can get the tools that he or she needs to stop smoking." said Secretary Thompson.

Scientific evidence has shown that quitlines are an effective tool to help smokers quit. Telephone counseling can significantly increase long-term quit rates compared to self-help materials alone.

In the 40 years since the release of the first Surgeon General's report on smoking in 1964, our progress in reducing the prevalence of tobacco use has been dramatic. Adult smoking rates have been cut nearly in half between 1965 and 2002 from 42.4 percent to 22.8 percent.

"This year more than 440,000 Americans will die because of their decision to smoke; and this is 100 percent preventable," Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona said. "Quitlines are a valuable resource in helping people find effective ways to quit smoking. Within 20 minutes after a smoker inhales that last cigarette, his body begins a series of changes that continue for years. Among these health improvements are: a return to normal blood pressure, improved circulation, 50 percent reduction in the risk of heart attack, lung cancer, and stroke, and the list goes on and on. By quitting smoking today a smoker can assure themselves a healthier tomorrow."

Today, telephone quitlines deliver information, advice, support, and referrals to smokers in 38 states, regardless of their geographic location, race/ethnicity, or economic status.

About three out of four U.S. smokers say they want to quit, but fewer than 5 percent of smokers who quit for at least a day are able to stay tobacco-free for three to 12 months. Success rates increase dramatically when smokers use evidence-based treatments such as physician advice, FDA-approved medications, or telephone counseling.

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Each year smoking causes about 440,000 premature deaths and costs the nation $75 billion in direct health care expenses.

"Through this new initiative, smokers will be connected with the support they need to help break the terrible addiction of tobacco use," said Secretary Thompson.

The national network of smoking cessation quitlines is complemented by the HHS Web site, www.smokefree.gov, which provides access to quitline numbers currently offered by individual states and NCI. The site also offers an online guide to quitting, instant messaging with an NCI cessation expert, and downloadable cessation guides.

HHS sponsors a variety of other programs and initiatives as part of a comprehensive approach to reducing tobacco use in the United States. Highlights of these activities include:

  • Medicare Stop Smoking Program, a demonstration project funded by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to examine the best ways to help Medicare beneficiaries quit smoking.
  • Partnership to Help Pregnant Smokers Quit, a coalition of more than 50 federal, national, state, and local organizations to develop strategies to improve smoking cessation among pregnant women.
  • Media Campaign Resource Center, sponsored by CDC, to share high-quality advertising materials on smoking cessation and prevention among states and other partners
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  • Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Centers, funded by NCI and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, to stimulate integrated research across scientific disciplines.
  • Youth Tobacco Cessation Collaborative, to guide future research on cessation strategies for children and teenagers.

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