State brandishes 2 new weapons in war on smoking
Smokers, especially young adults, who want to kick the habit can get free help in New Jersey by calling a new hot line or using the Internet, Governor Whitman said Thursday.
New Jersey Quitline -- 1-866 NJ-STOPS (1-866-657-8677) -- and New Jersey Quitnet -- www.nj.quitnet.com -- offer free smoking cessation counseling and resources. The services are New Jersey's first treatment initiatives funded by the settlement agreement between states and the tobacco companies.
Whitman challenged college-age smokers to quit by the Great American Smokeout, the annual national stop-smoking day Nov. 16.
"These programs won't work just because they're available. Smokers have to take the first step," said Whitman, the mother of two college-age children. "They have to take a shot at breaking free from the nicotine habit. They have to log on or call."
Tobacco use, the single most preventable cause of death and disease in New Jersey, is responsible for nearly 13,000 deaths in the state each year, Whitman said.
Nearly half of all college students have either smoked or used tobacco products within the past year -- a higher proportion than the general population, she said. Smoking in New Jersey among people 18 to 24 years old increased by 6 percent between 1998 and 1999, state Health Department figures show.
"Of adolescents who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, most report that they would like to quit, but are not able to do so. . . . It's time to pull out the stops and reverse the trend," Whitman said.
The New Jersey Quitline offers trained smoking cessation counselors fluent in 26 languages from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.
A counselor assesses the caller's needs and smoking history, then develops an individualized treatment plan which may last three to six months. Quitline is a national model based on Mayo Clinic research that showed the service effectively helped 34 percent of smokers quit the habit after six months.
The Internet service, New Jersey Quitline, offers round-the-clock smoking cessation guides, referrals to local programs, information about medications that help end tobacco addiction, quitting tips, and support groups.
Two out of three smokers in New Jersey "overwhelmingly" want to quit, said state Health Commissioner Christine Grant.
"The greatest interest in quitting comes from these young smokers. Seventy-four percent say they want to quit. We understand how difficult it can be to succeed, and we believe" the state's new services will help them do it, Grant said.