SPRINGFIELD—The Illinois Tobacco QUITLINE has added weekend hours for the first time and expanded its daily hours of operation until 11 p.m. to provide more opportunities for Illinoisans trying to quit smoking, said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director.
The expanded hours for the QUITLINE, which is operated by the American Lung Association, were made possible by an increase in Tobacco Settlement funding from the General Assembly from $1 million last fiscal year to $2 million in the 2011 fiscal year.
The QUITLINE’s new hours are 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. English and Spanish-speaking counselors are on staff, and translation services are available in more than 150 languages, including sign language. Previously, the QUITLINE only operated on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Nicotine is highly addictive and … breaking that addiction is harder for some people than others, and different methods, such as counseling or nicotine replacement therapy, may work better for one person than for another,” Arnold said. “The expanded services the Illinois Tobacco QUITLINE now offers can help people determine which smoking cessation method works for them.”
“It takes the average person seven tries before they can quit smoking for good,” said Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in Illinois. “This new funding allows us to be a part of more quit attempts and to see our callers through to their last cigarette. For every dollar spent helping smokers quit, the state saves $1.29 due to fewer tobacco disease-related hospitalizations state Medicaid pays for, and through increased productivity of our workforce. Not only will this save money, it will save lives.”
The QUITLINE is staffed by medical professionals and counselors who:
• Ask callers about their readiness to quit, history of tobacco use and previous quit attempts.
• Customize a cessation program to the caller’s need.
• Mail a “quit kit” including self-help materials, information about nicotine replacement therapies and requested health information.
• Maintain weekly communication with participants for a minimum of six weeks. Make follow-up calls at three months, six months and twelve months.
• Discuss all issues relating to lung health and provide physician referrals and information about medicines and treatments when requested.
In fiscal year 2005, the QUITLINE received almost 4,300 calls. Just five years later in fiscal year 2010, almost 34,000 people called the QUITLINE. It’s anticipated the QUITLINE will receive an additional 10,000-12,000 calls this year due to the expanded hours and outreach efforts.
The most recent statistics show that in 2009 approximately 19 percent of Illinoisans considered themselves smokers, compared to roughly 23 percent 10 years earlier in 1999.
For help to stop smoking, call the Illinois Tobacco QUITLINE at 1-866- QUIT-YES (1-866-784-8937). Hearing-impaired persons can call 1-800-501-1068.