Calling It Quits
Most smokers who have used Georgia’s free cessation program said the phone service has helped them kick their habit, according to a survey by Georgia State University that at the same time also showed that more than half of those who called had relapsed s
The survey evaluated the success of the state’s tobacco quit line, started in 2001 as part of a comprehensive approach to snuffing out smoking in Georgia. Overseen by the Department of Human Resources’ Public Health Division, the line has fielded more than 50,000 calls in its existence, health department officials said.
For the survey, researchers reached 1,001 of the quit line’s users, or roughly 75 percent of eligible callers.
Although for the most part participants were pleased with the cessation program’s services, only 15 percent reported being a non-smoker six months after their first call to the quit line. Fifty-three percent said they had relapsed.
Dr. Kimberly Redding, state public health director of chronic disease prevention and health promotion, said the relapse frequency is not uncommon among those trying drop the habit.
“Tobacco use is an addiction, and it’s a difficult addiction to kick or to overcome,” she said. “So it’s not unusual for smokers to have multiple quit attempts before they’re actually successful.”
The fact that they made an attempt is a good sign because Redding said they are likely to try again.
All survey participants that had relapsed told researchers they would make another quit attempt.
Smoking in general appears to have declined slightly in the state, dropping from 4 percent from 2001 to 2004.
But that still leaves one in five Georgians as smokers.
Health officials admit that a broad policy approach is needed to truly put a dent in the smoking population.
Last year, a statewide ban cleared smoke from many public places. Redding said it’s too early to tell if it has had any effect on the number of smokers.
But she said it definitely decreases everyone’s exposure to second-hand smoke.
“It also has the effect of discouraging people from initiating tobacco use and also encourages them to stop smoking,” Redding said.
Employers also have been moving to push smoke from the workplace by implementing insurance provisions that result in additional costs for tobacco users.
Vickey Ayers, who teaches cessation programs at Henry County Medical Center, said her class grew exponentially after a major employer in the Atlanta area forced its employees to quit or pay higher premiums for insurance. She declined to say who the employer was, but said her class grew about five times its average size.
Additional key findings about the quit line of the persons surveyed include:
• 87 percent said they would recommend the Quit Line to others.
• 84 percent said the Quit Line was “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful” in suggesting ways to quit tobacco, such as how to deal with urges or getting social support.
• 71 percent said the Quit Line was “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful” in providing information about medications such as the nicotine patch or Zyban.
• The study found that quit rates for Georgia Tobacco Quit Line callers are consistent with or better than national quit rates for similar statewide tobacco counseling services. Other statewide quit lines show quit rates that range from 15 percent to 28 percent.