The North Dakota Tobacco Quitline recently celebrated its seventh anniversary.

The Quitline, which is funded through the North Dakota Department of Health, offers free, individualized counseling to smokers or spit-tobacco users who call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. The Quitline also offers two months of free nicotine patches, gum or lozenges to qualified enrollees and offers an audio library service —prerecorded messages about the Quitline and the quitting process.

“During the biennium of 2009 to 2011, the Quitline fielded 13,000 calls,” said Michelle Walker, director of the North Dakota Department of Health’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. “That’s more than double the 6,334 calls we received during the previous biennium of 2007 to 2009.”

According to Walker, there are several reasons for Quitline’s success. More cities enacting comprehensive tobacco-free policies, an increase in the federal cigarettes store tax in 2010, continued educational and marketing campaigns about quitting and the services of the Quitline, and more health-care providers referring their patients have all contributed to the rise in the number of callers.

“About half of the people who called (6,212) enrolled in the service,” Walker said. “Others may have called because they were curious about the Quitline or to listen to the audio library topics. Concerned family members and health-care providers also are included in the number of people who called the Quitline.”

The Quitline boasts a 12-month quit rate of nearly 35 percent, meaning that after 12 months, 35 percent of the people who received counseling are still not using tobacco. The rate ranks very high when compared to quit rates for other quit lines.

“Quitting cheap cigarettes is a difficult process,” said Walker. “Most people try multiple times and that’s okay. Your chances of success are greatest when you use a combination of medication and counseling, which are both provided by the Quitline. If you relapse after using the Quitline, you can re-enroll and try again six months after your previous enrollment date.”

For those curious about the Quitline, a short video is available that describes how the Quitline works and how the counselors help with the process of quitting. It is available at www.ndhealth.gov/tobacco.

The Quitline is complemented by North Dakota QuitNet, an online service that helps people quit tobacco. The Quitline and QuitNet can be used in combination so that people get the help that suits them best. Those who are comfortable logging in can chat with counselors online. Those who prefer to talk to someone can visit with counselors through the Quitline phone service. QuitNet users also can chat with other quitters and find out what works for them.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disability in North Dakota. Nearly 900 people in the state die each year and many more suffer illnesses like heart attacks, strokes and lung diseases because of cigarettes for sale use and secondhand smoke,” Walker said. “The Quitline and QuitNet are available to encourage people to beat tobacco – to help them live healthier and live longer.”

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