Ky. Smokers Offered Cash to Quit
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Forget personal goals, will power or resolutions. Kentucky health officials are using the lure of cold, hard cash to get people to end their addiction to tobacco.
As part of a statewide contest called ``Bluegrass Quit and Win 2001,'' smokers who are able to live without tobacco for a month will be entered into a drawing for a $2,500 grand prize or one of five $500 runner-up prizes.
``The exciting thing about this program is that we may have as many people quit smoking during this one month than have quit across the state in the last five years combined,'' said Todd Warnick, smoking-cessation director for Fayette County, one of 10 counties sponsoring the contest.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29.7 percent of Kentucky's adult population smokes. It trails only Nevada in the percentage of smokers and the rate of tobacco-related deaths.
``We'll do anything we can do to help those numbers go down and help people lead a healthier lifestyle,'' Warnick said. ``This contest is a way to reach a large number of people in a very effective and cost-efficient manner.''
Anyone 18 or older statewide who smokes cigarettes, cigars or pipes, or uses smokeless tobacco is eligible to participate. They must pair up with non-tobacco-using partners to witness that they are actually tobacco-free from Sept. 10 through Oct. 9.
Health officials will offer assistance as the contest progresses, including counseling to help participants resist powerful nicotine cravings. A toll-free phone line and Web site also have been set up to aid smokers in their efforts.
Jamie Brown of Lexington said the program sounds like a good idea, although he's not sure he'd be able to give up cigarettes cold turkey.
``I'm sure I'd have to work up to quitting altogether before the start date,'' said Brown, 26, a University of Kentucky student who smoked his first cigarette at 14 and now smokes about two packs a day.