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Smokers Who Want To Quit Can Get Free Nicotine Replacement – For Now

North Carolina smokers who want to kick the habit will have access to nicotine patches, gum and lozenges thanks to a fund that’s being discontinued.

Close to a million dollars left over from the Health and Wellness Trust Fund will be used to provide smokers who call the NC Quitline with nicotine replacement therapy – until the money runs out later this spring.

Logo for NC Quitline

Image courtesy of the Tobacco Control Branch, NC DHHS

The Quitline is a state funded program offering advice and counseling for people who want to stop smoking. The Quitline has been funded by the Health and Wellness Trust Fund, but the Fund was abolished by legislators during the last session of the General Assembly.

Spokeswoman Ann Staples from the Tobacco Control Branch of the Department of Health and Human Services said the money will be enough to provide nicotine replacement therapy for close to ten thousand smokers.

She said since January 1, people calling the Quitline have been offered the nicotine replacement therapy. Smokers who want to quit are sent four weeks worth of gum, lozenges or patches in the mail.  As they get closer to their quit date, counselors determine if the person needs another month of the medication.

“Maybe they’re smoking again,” said Staples. “Maybe they’ve given up. But if it’s working for them, they can receive a second shipment.”

Staples said eight weeks is the amount of time that some studies have shown works best for smokers who want to quit. The best results come if people are also receiving counseling during that time, according to Staples.

“We have found that for people who call QuitlineNC that nicotine replacement therapy doubles the chances of quitting successfully,” Staples said. “That compares people who just call and use coaching only, versus coaching plus nicotine replacement.”

Currently about 20 percent of all North Carolina adults over the age of 18 smoke – that’s down from 25.7 percent in 2001.

Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, have the highest rate of smoking, at 29.1 percent. Staples said the young adult rate has remained pretty steady over the last decade, but more older adults are quitting and fewer middle school and high school students are starting up.

Staples said any leftover money from the Health and Wellness Trust Fund needs to be spent before the end of the fiscal year. With the abolition of the Health and Wellness Trust Fund, the future of the Quitline is in doubt but public health officials hope they’ll receive money to keep the service operating at the same level.

State money cannot be carried over to the next fiscal year, so Tobacco Control officials determined the nicotine replacement would be the best use of the money.

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