Schweiker Administration Launches Pennsylvania's Toll-Free Tobacco Quitline
HARRISBURG, Pa., June 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Surrounded by anti-tobacco advocates, Secretary of Health Robert S. Zimmerman Jr. today reaffirmed Gov. Mark Schweiker's commitment to the fight against tobacco by launching Pennsylvania's first toll-free tobacco q
"Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in Pennsylvania," Secretary Zimmerman said. "That's why we're launching this quitline today. We want to give Pennsylvanians who smoke or use chewing tobacco the helping hand they may need to end their life-threatening addiction. We want to save lives. We want to make Pennsylvanians healthier.
"We're here to offer tobacco users help -- a toll-free phone number that may just be the answer -- 1-877-724-1090. The toll-free quitline provides service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so that at any given hour, when someone is ready to quit, they can call and get a sympathetic ear and some life-saving advice."
By calling the toll-free number, tobacco users will receive counseling from highly trained intake specialists and cessation counselors. After that initial call to the quitline, callers will receive five scheduled follow-up calls. And, if there are those who are not ready to quit, materials such as a self-help quit guide and tailored fact sheets along with local cessation- service listings will be provided to them. The cessation counselors also will be able to provide callers with information on cessation coverage by Pennsylvania health-insurance plans and Medical Assistance.
The national American Cancer Society will operate the quitline for the Department of Health. Susan Roberts, Program Manager for Tobacco Control for the American Cancer Society, Pennsylvania Division, joined Secretary Zimmerman for today's announcement.
"The American Cancer Society is proud to be a part of offering this service to Pennsylvania," Roberts said. "Quitline is a proven, effective service, that will make a significant impact in our fight against tobacco, and our fight to save lives."
Secretary Zimmerman also was joined by Zona Boyer, who has been smoking for 30 years and is willing to call the quitline for help.
"I smoke a pack and a half of cigarettes a day, and I hate it," Boyer said. "I've been smoking for the last 30 years and have tried to quit using just about everything -- the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, hiding my cigarettes, going cold turkey -- but nothing has worked. I'm willing to try calling this quitline as my next quit attempt. Maybe it will give me the incentive I need to end this addiction."
The Health Department is promoting the quitline through a series of outdoor advertising in the Harrisburg/Central Pennsylvania area and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton region. Beginning in July, billboards and bus boards, playing off of the excuses that tobacco users give for not quitting, will be on display.
"We want to get the message out that help is available, and there's never been a better time than now to quit," Secretary Zimmerman said.
The Schweiker Administration continues to raise awareness about the issue of tobacco use. Recently, the Department of Health released the latest results of an eight-month, tobacco-enforcement "sting" of Pennsylvania retailers which showed that out of 2,548 spot checks statewide, 535 citations were issued -- meaning that 21 percent of the time, teenagers under the legal age of 18 successfully purchased tobacco products.
After receiving the results, Gov. Schweiker proposed putting Pennsylvania's children first by raising Pennsylvania's cigarette tax by 69 cents, to an even $1 per pack. There has been no change in Pennsylvania's cigarette tax in more than a decade. It now stands 12 cents below the national average. Numerous studies prove that teen smoking rates drop when the cigarette tax is raised.
This comes after Pennsylvania narrowly avoided losing $23 million in federal funding last year earmarked for improving the health of state residents because Pennsylvania's retailers exceeded a federal limit on tobacco sales to minors.
A report by the U.S. Surgeon General, titled "Reducing Tobacco Use," found that raising tobacco-product prices decreases the prevalence of tobacco use, particularly among kids and young adults, and that tobacco-tax increases produce "substantial long-term improvements in health." From its review of existing research, the report concluded that raising tobacco taxes is one of the most effective tobacco-prevention and control strategies.
To further spread this message, the Health Department recently held regional meetings for members of BUSTED! -- a grassroots advocacy movement encouraging Pennsylvania teens to join in the fight against tobacco. The movement includes educating and training Pennsylvania youth about advocacy and the tobacco industry, and empowering Pennsylvania youth to use the movement as their vehicle for spreading anti-tobacco use messages. A number of the BUSTED! youth also will be involved in compliance checks of tobacco retailers.
The Department of Health's Division of Tobacco Prevention and Control manages a comprehensive tobacco-prevention program with a mission to reduce the use of tobacco products by Pennsylvania residents and control the epidemic of tobacco-related disease, disability and death.
The Health Department works with state, local and regional partners in compliance and enforcement programs and supports outreach efforts to discourage tobacco use. This initiative also includes a toll-free "hotline" to report unlawful tobacco sales and to respond to requests for information. The hotline number is 1-877-PA-HEALTH.