shows an upper arm with a nicotine patch attached: tobacco, smoking
Photo credit: RegBarc, Wikimedia Creative Commons

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By Jared Weber

QuitlineNC will mail free quit-smoking medications to North Carolina residents who sign up before the end of the month, or while supplies last, the Department of Health and Human Services announced this week.

Launched in 2005, QuitlineNC is a state-funded phone and web service designed to help people kick tobacco addiction.

Giveaways of nicotine replacement medications don’t happen often.

The current initiative marks the first time QuitlineNC has doled out free quit-smoking medications since May, 2015.

Image courtesy of the Tobacco Control Branch, NC DHHS

“We are pleased to provide this support to help people take the next step down the path to quitting,” State Health Director Betsey Tilson said in a press release announcing the initiative. “I encourage North Carolinians to take advantage of this offer and take the next step to health.”

People who sign up before May 31 will receive eight weeks of free nicotine patches, as well as either nicotine gum or lozenges. The medications supplement four sessions of over-the-phone counseling from professionally trained coaches.

Ann Staples, who works with the Tobacco Control Branch of DHHS, said the combination of services offered can be very effective.

Several meta-analyses conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration have found that medications along with behavioral support vastly increased quitting success compared to more conventional methods of care.

“When people have those breakthrough cravings that their patch isn’t strong enough to cover, they can use a lozenge or piece of gum to help get through that craving,” Staples said.

As of 2017, 1.5 million adults smoked regularly across the state. That’s 18 percent of the state’s total population over the age of 18.

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Of that 1.5 million people, 24,000 smokers received support from QuitlineNC last year.

Staples said QuitlineNC is hoping for anywhere between 1,700 and 2,000 new participants before the end of the month.

She urged any and all smokers who are considering quitting to meet the sign-up deadline.

“Combination therapy is the Cadillac version of tobacco cessation,” she said. “We don’t usually offer it to everyone for free, so now is the time to call.”

“You don’t have to call the Quitline ready to quit that day, but you will hopefully be ready to quit within the next 30 days or so.”

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Jared Weber

Jared Weber is NC Health News' 2018 legislative intern. He is a rising junior at UNC Chapel Hill where he's majoring in journalism and global studies with a minor in Spanish.