National Network Will Help More Smokers Quit
On November 10, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced the launch of the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines, a telephone-based smoking cessation program. The toll-free access number - 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669) - will put callers in touch with local programs that can help them give up tobacco. In addition, the HHS Web site - www.smokefree.gov - offers online smoking cessation advice and downloadable information. The Web site was created by the Tobacco Control Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), with contributions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society.
The National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines state/federal partnership is the first effort of a larger collaboration that has the potential to have a major public health benefit. With one easy-to-remember number, tobacco users in every state will have the tools and resources they need to quit smoking.
"What starts as a single puff can become a death sentence for millions of Americans," said Secretary Thompson. "Americans want to quit smoking, and they should quit smoking. These initiatives will help Americans kick the habit and save their own lives."
Quitlines offer advice, support, resources for cessation medications, and referrals to local cessation services. The national system will route callers, based on their area codes, to available state-run quitlines. Callers from states not currently providing quitline services will be routed to NCI's quitline, operated by the Cancer Information Service. It provides services in English and Spanish.
The www.smokefree.gov Web site includes an interactive map with toll-free state quitline numbers and offers instant messaging with an NCI tobacco cessation specialist. Other information, such as a step-by-step guide to managing the process of quitting and publications that can be downloaded, printed, or ordered, is available 24 hours a day.
"Not smoking is the best way to avoid smoking-caused illnesses. But quitting is the single most important step smokers can take to reduce the risk of many cancers and other diseases," said NCI Director Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach. "Smoking causes 440,000 premature deaths each year. It's associated with at least 14 types of cancer, including lung cancer, acute myeloid leukemia, and cancer of the larynx, cervix, prostate, pancreas, kidney, and bladder, among others."
"People smoke for a variety of reasons," continued Dr. von Eschenbach, "and different people need different resources as they try to stop smoking. The new National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines provides access to trained quitline counselors across the country who can assist smokers in their efforts to quit, and www.smokefree.gov supports both immediate and long-term needs as people become nonsmokers."
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002 shows that people who used quitlines in addition to self-help materials had double the cessation rates of people who used self-help materials alone. Many smokers are more likely to use telephone services than face-to-face programs because telephone services are more convenient. Quitline services also have the potential to reach large numbers of tobacco users, including low-income, rural, elderly, uninsured, and racial/ethnic populations who might not otherwise have access to cessation services.