State slashes smoking cessation fundingThe New Year is days away. When the clock strikes midnight, resolutions will be made. If yours is to quit smoking in 2010, be warned.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The New Year is days away. When the clock strikes midnight, resolutions will be made. If yours is to quit smoking in 2010, be warned.
State budget cuts have depleted the resources available to kick the habit.
June Farkas, a college health nurse at the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College-Superior, fights smoking in Douglas County with mints, information and a positive attitude. Students approach her weekly looking for help to quit.
“I just want them to be well and I want to help them,” Farkas said. “In the past, I was able to refer them to the Wisconsin Quit Line service where they could receive free counseling by telephone or e-mail and a few weeks of smoking cessation products.”
As of Jan. 1, there will be fewer counselors and less counseling sessions available.
“This really offends my sense of fairness,” Farkas said. “I really feel like we’re selling people short here.”
Smokers are paying $2.52 tax on every pack of cigarettes they buy in Wisconsin.
“There’s a whopping $750 million dollars coming in from tobacco taxes, the fourth largest source of income in the state,” said Maureen Busalacci, executive director of SmokeFree Wisconsin. “It seems a shame not to put $30 million into the program.”
Only $6.9 million state dollars will be funneled into tobacco prevention in 2010, 55 percent less than in 2009. The cut leaves Busalacchi shaking her head.
“People want to quit more than ever,” she said. “So to yank the funding away that helps them quit via the Quit Line is a big mistake.”
Raising the tax on tobacco products – like the 75-cent-a-pack increase in September – “is only OK if you also make sure some of that money goes to help people quit,” Busalacchi said.
Tobacco cessation programs work.
“Tobacco users who try to quit on their own, ‘cold turkey,’ fail 95 percent of the time,” said Moira Harrington, communications director with the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention. “Those who get some coaching and use one of, or a combination of, the seven FDA-approved medications to quit will quadruple their chances of successfully quitting.”
Since it launched in 2006, nearly 1,200 tobacco users have taken advantage of the services of the Wisconsin Quit Line.
Pregnant smokers used to get 10 individualized coaching and support calls from the Quit Line, regular smokers got up to five. Now, Harrington said, they will each get one, although they can still call or e-mail the Quit Line to speak to a counselor.
“You have to reach out to them,” she said.
The free two-week supplies of nicotine replacement products will continue, Harrington said.
With the state tightening the belt, there is no one to pick up the overflow.
Smoking cessation counseling is available through a local branch of Minnesota’s Quit Plan, which is housed by SMDC. However, it is only available to Minnesota residents or Wisconsin residents who work in Minnesota.
There are no other such local programs.
“We were referring people to the Quit Line,” said Michelle Hughes, a public health nurse with the Douglas County Health Department. The department does offer folders full of information. Such information is also available through local health care providers, including the Lake Superior Community Health Center.
Quitting smoking involves both a physical and psychological component, Farkas said. While replacement therapies or medication can help break the physical addiction, it takes willpower and planning to cut the psychological ties.
She encouraged quitters to identify the benefits of going tobacco-free – more money, clean air, food that tastes better, a car that smells cleaner, being able to play with your grandchildren, better health. It’s also important to tell others your plan to quit, so they can support you.
“If you don’t tell anybody you’re going to quit, it’s not as successful,” Farkas said.
Quitters should plan coping strategies in advance. Smoking can become an ingrained part of life – a comforting behavior that is associated with daily activities.
“The biggest mistake quitters make is not thinking through temptation situations,” Farkas said. “Plan for how to deal with triggers.”
Some people smoke with coffee, others after a meal. Break time may tempt someone to smoke; a night of pool with friends could trigger the urge.
Make a plan – take a walk around the block instead of standing with the smokers during break, for example – and get support. Ideally, Farkas said, ask your medical provider for help as well.
She said even if the first attempt to quit is unsuccessful, it acts as a learning tool for the next one.
“I’m eternally optimistic that people can quit,” Farkas said.
Quit Line resources are available online at www.ctri.wisc.edu/Smokers/smokers.htm or call (800) 784-8669. Those eligible for Minnesota’s Quit Plan can call (800) 784-8669 or (218) 786-2677. To get information from the Douglas County Health and Human Services Department, call (715) 395-1304.