Ten years and 31,315 quitters

By: Special to The Union Times

COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Tobacco Quitline has turned 10 years old and the Department of Health and Environmental Control highlightED its success on Nov ember 17, 2016 — the day set aside for the Great American Smokeout.

The 3rd Thursday of each November marks this historic event sponsored by the American Lung Association that encourages tobacco users to give up the habit for just 24 hours and helps them develop a plan to quit. This year, there is even more cause to celebrate this widespread cessation effort because our Quitline marks its 10th anniversary of helping South Carolinians from all corners of the state give up tobacco and quit for keeps.

• Early beginnings and moving forward

DHEC launched the first ever statewide tobacco telephone Quitline for South Carolina in August 2006 with no prior experience and a small supplemental grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health. We readily adopted as our Quitline number the newly formed national telephonic portal, 1-800-QUIT-NOW. We moved quickly to become a charter member of the North American Quitline Consortium (NAQC) that brought together vendors, funders, and researchers to set standards for the Quitline industry. We joined forces with all the other states, U.S. Territories, and Canada in making free, telephone-based behavioral counseling available and accessible to any tobacco user wanting help to quit. Because hundreds of people can be served in a short amount of time, the Quitline is a perfect example of a population-based program that can have tremendous impact on the landscape of chronic diseases that are caused by tobacco use and smoking.

Since starting a decade ago, we have never looked back! We have built the Quitline into a multi-million dollar contract with one of the nation’s top vendors, Optum (formerly Alere Wellbeing). We provide evidence-based tobacco treatment services that are individualized, personal, protected, and totally free! And the Quitline is now available 24 hours every day of the week to anyone who calls or enrolls online at www.quitnow.net/southcarolina/

• A full-range of services offered

We offer free behavioral counseling at either one call with a highly trained Quit Coach or through a multi-call intervention that has up to 5 sessions. Pregnant and post-partum participants receive 10 counseling sessions throughout their pregnancy and afterwards to prevent relapse. We have expanded pharmacotherapy for enrolled participants who have no health insurance or have a health plan that does not cover all of the medications that are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for tobacco cessation. We make exceptions on a case-by-case basis toremove barriers to helping anyone who is ready to quit.

The Quitline’s nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) formulary includes varied dosing levels of the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge or a combination of these products that are shipped directly to the participant from the Quitline vendor. And participants are connected with the latest online community, social media, and texting and mobile apps to help support their journey to becoming tobacco-free.

• We’ve “come a long way, baby!”

To put a more positive spin on the old Virginia Slims cigarette slogan, we really have come a long way, baby!

Over these past ten years:

• The 1st year had 4,051 callers compared with 19,658 callers in FY 2016.

• Altogether, 106,739 people called the Quitline for assistance.

• 94% were tobacco users wanting help to quit.

• 19,000 patients were referred by their doctor or other health professional.

• 58% of participants had no health insurance or had state-funded Medicaid support.

• 52% smoked and had a co-occurring chronic medical condition, such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, coronary artery disease or cancer.

• 45% struggled with a mental health condition, like depression or anxiety, or a substance use disorder while they smoked.

• 32% remained tobacco-free 7-months after enrollment.

• Long-term return-on-investment

We should celebrate the fact that the Quitline has helped 31,315 South Carolinians quit tobacco successfully–measured 7 months after they started the program. These are solid quitters!

And they have saved our state over $1 Billion in medical expenses, lost productivity, workers compensation, and expenses due to secondhand smoke exposure totaled. In fact, for every $1 spent on the Quitline in FY2014/2015, $4.48 of taxpayers’ money was saved in South Carolina for what is needed to treat and replace time lost due to tobacco-caused illnesses.

• Realizing healthier, happier lives

These folks all represent South Carolinians who have been helped collectively to realize healthier lives by becoming tobacco-free.

• Medically, they have reduced out-of-pocket direct healthcare costs by $1 million — that is about $3,195 more than is spent for every smoker annually.

• Financially, they are $174,737.70 richer because they are no longer buying cigarettes or other tobacco products.

• Socially, they have reduced the stress of figuring out how to get a nicotine fix at work, school, restaurants, or the growing number of public places that don’t allow the use of tobacco products through smoke-free and tobacco-free policies.

• But emotionally — they have all conquered one of the most controlling forms of addiction and dependency. They now have a new sense of freedom and self-assurance that they can conquer anything if they can quit tobacco!

What a great way to live — healthier, richer, happier, and more emboldened to take on life as it comes at you. We celebrate the Quitline’s role in helping our participants reach their milestone of becoming a “quitter.” Here’s to another 10 years!

If you use tobacco — this is your lucky day. Quitting smoking can change your life…and the lives of your loved ones. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or enroll online and someone will help you to make the same step that countless others have taken by “Quitting for Keeps.”

Learn more about the S.C. Tobacco Quitline at www.scdhec.gov/quitforkeeps

Tobacco Quitline celebrates 10th anniversary

Special to The Union Times

This story was written by Katy L. Wynne, Ed.D., MSW, Quitline Manager/Cessation Coordinator Division of Tobacco Prevention and Control, SC Department of Health and Environmental Control. (wynnekl@dhec.sc.gov)

This story was written by Katy L. Wynne, Ed.D., MSW, Quitline Manager/Cessation Coordinator Division of Tobacco Prevention and Control, SC Department of Health and Environmental Control. (wynnekl@dhec.sc.gov)