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Half Of Missouri Smokers Want To Quit

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

For the thousands of Missourians who want to quit smoking, there is no time like the present. Officials at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services are urging smokers to quit during the Great American Smokeout, Thursday, Nov. 20.

A new study by the health department shows that 64 percent of Missouri adults who smoke say they intend to quit in the next six months.

"Wanting to quit smoking is an important first step," said Victoria Warren, manager of the health department's Tobacco Use Prevention Program. "Setting a date to quit is the next step, and the Great American Smokeout is a good time to do that."

Sponsored annually by the American Cancer Society, the Great American Smokeout encourages smokers to give up tobacco to improve their own health as well as the health of others who are exposed to secondhand smoke.

According to the state's new tobacco study, 57 percent of Missouri adults support smoke-free air indoors at public places to reduce the adverse health effects created by secondhand smoke.

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"The Great American Smokeout is not only a good time to stop smoking, it is also a great time to go out to dinner at a smoke-free restaurant or ask your favorite restaurant to go smoke free," Warren said. "We can send a strong message about the health risks associated with tobacco use and secondhand smoke by supporting places that do not allow smoking."

To help smokers quit, the state health department offers the Missouri Tobacco Quitline, a statewide toll-free telephone counseling service that provides callers with free counseling and kit of self-help materials. The Missouri Tobacco Quitline number is 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Gov. Blunt unveiled the Missouri Tobacco Quitline in 2005 to provide free telephone coaching and other assistance to Missourians wanting to quit using tobacco. Professional coaches work with callers to develop a plan to help them quit tobacco. Callers are also provided with a "quit kit" containing information to help them stop smoking.

In addition, medications that can greatly increase a person's chance of successfully quitting tobacco use are covered by a number of health insurance plans, Warren added. Smokers should check with their health care provider and insurance company to find out more about these medications.

Nearly a third of Missourians who successfully quit smoking last year used some form of nicotine replacement or medication to help them, according to the tobacco study.

Missouri has one of the highest smoking rates in the country – 23 percent of adults in the state smoke, compared to 20 percent nationwide. The state ranks sixth worst in the nation for smoking-related deaths.

The new tobacco study, funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health, is the largest survey of its kind ever conducted in Missouri. The study, which involved interviews with nearly 50,000 Missourians in 2007 and 2008, included information from all of the state's 114 counties and the city of St. Louis. The study is part of the foundation's tobacco prevention and cessation initiative, a nine-year, $40 million effort to reduce tobacco use in Missouri.