Phone Counseling, Nicotine Therapy Program Helps Smokers Quit

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Quitting Smoking

A free state-sponsored program in Maine that offers telephone counseling and access to nicotine patches or gum resulted in 15 percent of participants remaining smoke-free six months after enrolling, according to a new study.

"Services must be consistent with smokers' preferences," says Susan H. Swartz, M.D., of the Maine Medical Center and lead study author. "We know from experience that many smokers would like to use medications to help them quit, so access plays a big role."

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The researchers studied 12,479 adult smokers who used the service from 2003 to 2004. Of these smokers 1,864 had quit at six months after enrolling, according to the study reported in the November issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The smokers who called to avail themselves of the service represent 3 percent of Maine smokers.

The treatment has been available in Maine since 2001. Health professionals counsel callers to increase confidence with quitting, teach problem-solving and coping skills and educate callers on the side effects of nicotine-replacement therapy. Nicotine patches or gum are prescribed based on the smoker's health status, tobacco use history and patient preferences. Participants receive three follow-up calls and are provided with a new quit plan if they relapse.

Older smokers, those on Medicaid and people without insurance used the program at a higher rate than other smokers. Participants who used both nicotine-replacement therapy and phone counseling had the highest quit rates; however, only uninsured patients and those on Medicaid

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