Massachusetts Program Helps Parents Quit Smoking

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Massachusetts pediatricians are using a new tool to help protect their patients from secondhand smoke. The QuitWorks for Child and Family Health Care Practitioners program provides a clinically-proven model to help pediatricians talk to their patients’ parents and caregivers about quitting smoking, and enables them to refer smokers to a free, phone-based program to help them quit.

The program is a pediatrician-specific adaptation of the QuitWorks program launched in 2002, and is collaboration between the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MCAAP), the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS), and all major health insurers in the state. It is based on research from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Clinical Effort Against Secondhand Smoke Exposure (CEASE) program founded at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC)

“The vast majority of Massachusetts adults don’t smoke,” said Dr. Lauren Smith, a pediatrician and the Medical Director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. “We are working hard to reach those who still do, and to help them quit for their own sakes and the sake of their children. QuitWorks for Child and Family Health Care Practitioners is an essential tool in our effort to ensure that every child in Massachusetts has a chance to grow up smoke-free.”

DPH will mail 4,000 QuitWorks starter kits to pediatricians and family practitioners in Massachusetts during February and March 2009.

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“If you smoke, the best way to protect your child’s health is to quit,” said Dr. Carole Allen, Harvard Vanguard pediatrician and president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Now your child’s pediatrician can do more than just tell you to quit—he or she can help you to quit. It’s a big difference.”

Nearly a quarter of a million Massachusetts children are exposed to tobacco smoke in their own homes, a statistic the program strives to reduce.

“Our goal is to eliminate children’s exposure to secondhand smoke and to give every parent the best possible chance of quitting,” said Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, founder of CEASE and a pediatrician at MGHfC. “When parents are ready to try to quit, it’s important that we’re there to help.”

Secondhand smoke is known to increase children’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory infections, ear infections, decreased lung growth, and more severe asthma. Of the more than 4,000 toxins secondhand smoke contains, at least 60 are known to cause cancer, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2006 report from the Surgeon General states that “secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children,” and explains that there is no safe level of exposure.

“If we can help more parents and caregivers quit smoking, they and their loved ones will be healthier. And, if some of the money they save by not buying cigarettes could be used for nutritious food and education, their children’s health and future well-being would be that much more assured,” explained Dr. Robert Naparstek, MD, Chair of the MMS Committee on Environmental and Occupational Health at the Massachusetts Medical Society.

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