Helping Every Smoker Who Would Like to Quit
Last week, at a press conference attended by Surgeon General Richard Carmona, CDC Director Julie Gerberding, and me, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson affirmed his strong opposition to tobacco and announced plans to take another important step in the ongoing effort to address the burden of tobacco use in this country. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will co-fund the implementation of a national network of smoking cessation quitlines. This network will provide all smokers in the United States with access to the support and the most up-to-date information they need to quit.
Adult smoking rates have been cut nearly in half since the Surgeon General first recognized cigarette smoking as a cause of cancer and other serious diseases 40 years ago. Unfortunately, 46 million adults in this country continue to smoke today, and tobacco use remains the number one preventable cause of premature death in the nation.
While nearly three out of four smokers in the United States say they want to quit, sustained success rates for people who try to quit are abysmally low. Fortunately, we now have evidence-based interventions, including telephone counseling and FDA-approved medications, that can significantly increase success rates for people who attempt to quit.
Currently, 38 states have telephone quitlines that deliver information, advice, support, and referrals to smokers, regardless of their geographic location, race, ethnicity, or economic status. Scientific evidence has shown that quitlines are especially useful for people without access to other cessation treatments, and they can be effective supplements for people who use other methods to quit.
As soon as possible, NCI will establish a new, easy-to-remember, toll-free telephone number that will serve as a single access point to the national network of quitlines. States that currently have quitlines will receive increased funding from CDC to enhance their services. These states will be able to use their supplements to expand hours of operation, hire bilingual counselors, build referral linkages with local health care systems, or promote their quitline. States that do not have quitlines yet will receive grants to establish one.
Making quitline services accessible across the country was a key recommendation of the smoking cessation subcommittee of the Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health - a group that Secretary Thompson created and charged with providing recommendations, based on expert and public opinion, to focus the government's cessation efforts.
The North American Quitline Consortium - which was formed last year by leaders in state, provincial, and federal health departments, quitline vendors, and national organizations in the United States and Canada to identify ways to improve quitline operations, promotion, and effectiveness - will serve as a valuable resource for the new national network. We are completely committed to working closely with our partners in the consortium, such as the American Cancer Society and the American Legacy Foundation, to ensure that the national network of quitlines will help all smokers quit.
Interested smokers can get the help they need right now from NCI. The NCI Cancer Information Service (CIS) has more than 20 years of experience providing help to smokers trying to quit. Cessation resources available include:
In addition, people who contact the CIS at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422- 6237) can speak with a trained information specialist about smoking and cancer and can listen to recorded messages about the risks of smoking and tips on quitting. The services of the CIS are supplemented by a real-time, instant messaging site called LiveHelp, where people can "converse" online with an information specialist.
I encourage you to share this information with the smokers that you know, as quitting is one of the most important things they can do for their health. This is an important step forward in our efforts to eliminate suffering and death due to cancer.
Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D.