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Quitline offers free stop-smoking aids

The program pledges to help anyone who needs assistance kicking the habit

By Rosemarie Bernardo

LAST UPDATED: 1:32 a.m. HST, Nov 16, 2010

A state program will give free nicotine patches to all smokers who want to quit.

The Hawaii Tobacco Quitline's expanded service launches on Thursday, the date of the 35th-annual Great American Smokeout, a nationwide campaign created by the American Cancer Society to encourage smokers to develop a plan to quit.

The telephone Quitline opened in 2005, providing assistance to uninsured or Medicaid-insured smokers. Since its inception the Quitline has helped about 15,000 smokers.

Starting Thursday, smokers who use the Quitline will be able to obtain free patches and gum, said Julian Lipsher, program coordinator of the Department of Health's Tobacco Prevention & Education Program.

"With the Quitline expanding its services, help is available," Lipsher said. "You don't have to cut into your personal finances to make those concessions. Now is the right time to quit."

Smoking and tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the nation. About 150,000 people in Hawaii are smokers.

Lipsher said about 1,100 residents die every year from tobacco-related illnesses. "We need to do all we can to keep people from starting, helping them quit, limiting their exposure to second-hand smoke and reducing or eliminating the disparity from different population groups that are adversely affected by tobacco use," he added.

Those seeking help can call the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline at 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669). Counselors, or "quit coaches," are available from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. A specialist will answer calls made during off-hours to take down contact information. Smokers also can go to the Quitline's website -- -- and click on "Click to Call," to register to have a coach contact them.

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