The Hawaii Tobacco Quitline is hoping smokers will light up its phone lines instead of a cigarette during the annual New Year’s push to kick the unhealthy habit.
The free, confidential service is open to anyone in the state who wants to quit smoking, according to Valerie Smalley, a "Quit Coach" supervisor for the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline, which combines telephone coaching and nicotine replacement therapy. Smokers can also go online to register for a call back from a Quit Coach.
The hot line, paid for by the Hawaii Tobacco Prevention & Control Trust Fund using funds from a settlement with the tobacco industry, was established in 2005 and so far has helped more than 21,000 people.
"About 30 percent of the people who enroll in the program successfully quit smoking," said Quitline spokesman Pedro Haro. "Research shows that it takes several attempts. The more times a person tries, the more likely they are to stop smoking. We’ve seen a huge decline in tobacco use," Haro said.
In 2002, 21 percent of adults in Hawaii used tobacco. That dropped to 15.4 percent by 2009.
Hawaii Tobacco Quitline
» Phone: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669)
Smokers will see both immediate and long-term benefits upon quitting, he explained. "For example, the smell on their fingers can be gone by tomorrow," Haro said.
Long-term health benefits make it worth the effort, he added. "Smoking affects the heart. Not only can it cause heart disease, but also several different cancers, premature aging, and (it) even affects the teeth," Haro said.
Through the Quitline program, participants have unlimited telephone support from trained Quit Coaches and get information on various products and methods of quitting smoking, such as nicotine patches, gum, inhalers and nicotine-free pills.
Quit Coaches have bachelor’s degrees in health education, counseling or a related field, and many are ex-smokers.
"The telephone support is individualized, which makes a difference. We look at smoking history, how much a person smokes, when and where they smoke and what they have tried to do in the past," Smalley said.
"Loved ones may not understand how addictive smoking is and how difficult it is to stop. When (smokers) call in, it gives them someplace to go where people understand. They can be honest about their struggles," she said.
"There’s a lot of shame involved. Some of these people may be able to start and run a business, but they can’t quit smoking."
Quitline offers free nicotine patches or gum and coaching to all tobacco users, regardless of insurance coverage. "It not only helps smokers, but users of other tobacco products and even answers calls from family, friends and physicians of tobacco users to give them information on what they can do to help others quit," Haro said.
Quit now tips
» Plan something enjoyable to do every day that does not include tobacco.
» Stop and ask yourself, "Do I really want this cigarette right now?"
» Clean out your car. Empty your ashtray. Add a special place for your new crunchy snacks to help you fight the urge to smoke.
» Give away all your ashtrays.
» Watch people who don’t use tobacco. Borrow some ideas from them.
» Reward yourself. Consider putting aside the money that you would have spent buying cigarettes, and treat yourself.
» Make a commitment to having a tobacco-free home. Place a "Mahalo for not smoking" sign at the front door.
» Drink lots of water.
» Instead of a smoke break, take a walk round the block, have a cup of tea or drink a glass of fruit juice.
» Have hope. Remember, even if you’ve tried to quit before, it doesn’t mean you won’t be successful this time.
» Frame your last cigarette.
» Get social support. Talk about it to friends and family and let them support you.
» Measure your victories. Instead of beating yourself up for stumbling, applaud yourself for your small victories: "I’ve made it through an hour without smoking." Soon you’ll be able to say, "I’ve made it through a week or month."
» Most important, get help. Less than 5 percent of people who try to quit without help succeed.