by Mike Lee
Trying to kick the habit has a tendency of kicking people back. With that in mind, Colorado is trying to give its residents all the help they can get when they decide to rid themselves of cigarettes and tobacco.
One way the state is helping smokers is through the Colorado Quitline.
The Colorado Quitline (1-800-639-7848) is a toll-free telephone counseling service that connects people who want to quit smoking with trained counselors who can guide and support them through the quitting process. This service is free and available to Colorado residents in both English and Spanish.
The Quitline provides a customized quit plan that includes individualized counseling, relapse prevention techniques, scheduled calls from counselors, information on medications and nicotine replacement therapies, printed resource materials and details about any face-to-face classes available in the caller’s area.
Linda Schuyler, RN, teaches smoking cessation classes for Kaiser Permanente. She said the Colorado Quitline is a great resource for smokers having a hard time ending their habit.
Schuyler has been a registered nurse for 30 years, spending the last 13 with Kaiser Permanente and the last two years in health education working with people trying to quit smoking.
"Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping people stop smoking and using tobacco," Schuyler said. "Quitting smoking is the single most important thing people can do to improve their overall health. Smoking is a key factor in causing and worsening some of the most common chronic health problems in our society like lung disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer."
Schuyler said most people who smoke or use tobacco will make several attempts to quit before they quit for good. Whether people come through a formal program or quit on their own, they will all need to make changes in their behavior in order to be successful. Kaiser Permanente offers very successful single and multiple session classes and support groups for its members and the community, and also provides a packet of material to help people quit smoking.
Quit rates at one year for those who attend our programs are as high as 40%. Quit rates reported by other programs are around 20%.
An integral part of that success is the Quitline.
"Not everyone can attend a class," Schuyler said. "The dimension that is added by the Colorado Quitline is that people can get the behavior change help that they need where ever they have access to the phone. People who work shifts or are homebound can easily use the service.
"People can do telephone counseling or self-guided programs."
Quitline services are also available in Spanish and online at co.quitnet.com.
"People who attend our stop smoking classes who have used the web site rave about it as s support to their quitting process," Schuyler said.
In the most recent 18 months with available statistics, 686 Kaiser members have used the Colorado Quitline. Over 500 have used the telephone counseling service, and just under 200 have used the self-guided program.
Ninety-five percent have tried to quit before
At the end of five telephone counseling sessions, 40% of those enrolled reported being smoke free.
The telephone counseling sessions can take place over several weeks.
The Quitline is also collecting longer term statistics to determine quit rates at 3 months, 6 months and one year after participating in the program.
Schuyler said one of the most important factors in Kaiser Permanente’s programs is follow-up support.
"Those who attend our classes have access to on-going follow-up groups for as long as they want to attend," Schuyler said. "These groups are also open to our members who use the Colorado Quitline. Our members who use the Quitline attend our support groups, and our members who attend classes also use the Quitline and the Quitnet for additional support, so we have a great relationship going."
It is estimated that tobacco-related illnesses claim 440,000 lives each year in the United States, including those affected indirectly, such as babies born prematurely due to prenatal maternal smoking and some of the victims of "secondhand" exposure to tobacco’s carcinogens.
Smoking costs the United States approximately $75 billion each year in direct medical expenses and $82 billion each year in lost productivity.
A recent study found that cigarette sales dropped an average of 43 percent in four states that made substantial investments in comprehensive tobacco control programs; these programs also provide a continued decline in sales and an increased efficiency when support is sustained over time.
Currently, an estimated 46.2 million, or 22.8 percent, of adults aged 18 years and older in the United States are smokers.v