State to help smokers 'Try to Stop'
The Rhode Island Department of Health today is launching a broad effort to encourage the state's 220,000 smokers to quit, offering a toll-free phone line, a Web site and treatment programs at 13 locations.
Anyone 15 or older who's even thinking about quitting can call 1-800-Try-to-Stop (1-800-879-8678) for help.
The phone number will link to the Tobacco Resource Center in Boston, where a counselor will offer several options: written materials in the mail, a referral for telephone counseling through the American Cancer Society's Quitline, referral to the trytoquit.org Web site, or a referral to one of 13 new treatment centers in Rhode Island.
The phone line will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, and recorded tips on quitting will be available around the clock. For Spanish-speaking people, the number to call is (800) 833-5256 and for deaf people it's (800) 833-1477.
When people try to quit on their own, only 4 percent to 5 percent succeed, said Elizabeth Harvey, manager of the Health Department's Tobacco Control Program. But when they enter an intensive program involving nicotine replacement therapy and behavioral counseling, the success rate leaps to 30 percent to 35 percent, she said.
The 13 treatment centers are based at community health centers or mental health centers around Rhode Island. Clinicians have undergone training in tobacco treatment in Massachusetts. Patients can attend about five sessions of group or individual counseling and educational presentations. Those 18 and older will also be offered nicotine replacement therapy -- either a patch or gum.
Any services that are not covered by the patients' insurance will be provided for free, so there is no cost to the participant.
Those who prefer to quit on their own can access the trytostop.org Web site, which features the "Quit Wizard," a self-paced interactive program that guides the user through the process of quitting.
The Health Department also plans a media blitz, advertising the program on radio, television, billboards and buses.
And it has contracted with several agencies for innovative outreach programs that will attempt to draw smokers into treatment. Two will focus on Hispanics and Southeast Asians. One program deploys visiting nurses to work with patients who smoke when they visit them in their own homes. Another targets pregnant women who smoke. And one program, in Warwick, pairs teenagers with elderly people in a cross-generational buddy system for mutual support in quitting.
A $600,000 appropriation from the General Assembly is paying for the efforts. The Tobacco Resource Center, run by the JSI Research and Training Institute of Boston, has been operating successfully in Massachusetts for six years. Rhode Island was able to buy into the program at a fraction of what it would have cost to start one separately, Harvey said.
Harvey says there is great need for such services: The effects of smoking are deadly and costly -- and surveys have found that half the adult smokers and more than half the teenage smokers in Rhode Island want to quit.
Between 1997 and 2001, antitobacco programs aimed at youths have reduced smoking among teenagers from 35 percent to 25 percent, according to two separate surveys. Additionally, the number of high schoolers who had never smoked, not even a puff, increased from 60 percent to 69 percent.