Smokers who want to quit tobacco can use their fingers to dial for free help instead of lighting up a cigarette. On Thursday, Nov. 15, the Great American Smokeout challenges smokers and vapers to take the first step by quitting for the day or making a plan to quit for good.
Callers in Alabama can dial 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) to reach the AlabamaDepartment of Public Health’s Tobacco Quitline. Enrollment in the free program can provide the caller an individualized quit plan, counseling from certified tobacco treatment specialists, and up to eight weeks of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches if the caller is medically eligible and enrolled in the program.
In Alabama, 20.9 percent of adults are smokers compared to the national rate of 17.1 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the nation and kills more than 8,600 adults in Alabama each year. Annually, the state spends more than $1.88 billion in health care costs directly caused by smoking.
“Tobacco use doesn’t just harm the smoker,” said Julie Hare, ADPH Tobacco Prevention and Control Program’s cessation manager. “Secondhand smoke can cause adverse health effects for anyone exposed.” CDC’s Tips from Former Smokers national advertising campaign which shows the cost for patients living with a tobacco-caused disease and the effect on their families has inspired thousands of Alabamians to call the Quitline for help, she said.
Tobacco users and vapers can also register for services online at quitnowalabama.com. The Quitline is open from 6 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.
Medicaid callers are offered Quitline counseling but are referred to Medicaid’s program to obtain their medications. “Medicaid pays for a full course of any of the seven Food and Drug Administration-approved medications to help quit tobacco,” Hare said. “Smokers who want to quit should ask their private insurance carrier about medication coverage,” she said. “Under the Affordable Care Act, tobacco cessation is required to be covered as a preventive service.”
Hare said other ways to reduce smoking include the adoption of comprehensive smoke-free policies in cities. Some 32 Alabama cities have adopted smoke-free ordinances that prohibit tobacco use in workplaces, including restaurants and bars. At least half of those ordinances include e-cigarettes, she said.
The American Cancer Society has sponsored the Great American Smokeout since 1975.