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Ohio could quit funding smokers’ help line

Ohio residents interested in free resources to help stop tobacco use may need to act soon.

As of July 1, the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line will lose half of its funding for the upcoming fiscal year and all of it for 2013, becoming another victim of the state’s budget deficit.

Gov. John Kasich’s two-year budget proposes an anti-tobacco money cut from $5.36 million this year to $1.1 million in fiscal year 2012 and zero in fiscal year 2013.

“Currently any Ohio resident can use the Quit Line for free,” said Jennifer House, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), which caters to assisting quitting all types of tobacco use.

If the Quit Line, which can be reached at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, does cease to exist once the $1 million in settlement funds set aside for 2012 runs out, Ohio would become the only state not to have a state-funded tobacco quit line.

“We’re working to make sure that doesn’t happen though,” House said.

She said ODH has formed a public and private partnership that is working to find a way to fund the Quit Line once the lessened settlement is used, House said.

According to the ODH website, those who call in and enroll are then paired with a specialist to make an individualized plan. Those eligible and attending counseling sessions can also receive two weeks of free nicotine patches, printed materials and other resources.

House said that as of March 31, almost 10,000 people had called into the Quit Line for the calendar year. About 50,000 people called Quit Line in 2007, but since then, the calls have decreased. She said the decrease in callers is likely because people thought the Quit Line had ceased to exist when it transferred to the ODH from the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation.

House said when people try to quit using tobacco cold turkey, meaning abruptly or without cessation aids, their success rate is usually about 5 percent. That number rises to about 33 percent with the help of the Quit Line.

Rosi Wyan, a fourth-year in computer science and engineering, said she has never seen the Quit Line advertised and doesn’t know anyone who has called it, so she isn’t sure it’s a necessary part of the state budget.

“In comparison to other things in Ohio, it’s not important,” Wyan said of the funding cut.

House said ODH has formed a public and private partnership, called the Cessation Benefits Team, which is working toward finding a way to fund the Quit Line once the lessened settlement is used.

“Those decisions may also change how the Quit Line works, but details are not final at this time,” she said of the impact on how the resource will function.

Andrew Kastner, a first-year in engineering, said he wouldn’t use the Quit Line to stop smoking.

“There’s better and more effective ways to quit,” Kastner said.

A survey compiled by the American College Health Association in 2009 found that of the 2,114 Ohio State students who responded, 63.1 percent had never used cigarettes, 19.2 percent had, but not in the last 30 days and 10.1 percent had smoked one to nine days in the last 30. The data also found that 4.8 percent of those surveyed said they smoked daily.

However, the Quit Line isn’t the only option for assistance to cease tobacco use. The Student Wellness Center (SWC) offers quit kits and counseling to make quit plans for students.

“I am available to meet with students who may be interested in quitting their tobacco use,” Amanda Blake, wellness coordinator for the SWC, said in an email.

Ian Bonner, a second-year in political science said he didn’t think the Quit Line would be helpful.

“Smokers will stop when they want to,” Bonner said.


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