A habit that’s worth breaking

Register Editor

SAVONBURG — Smoking causes as much angst for friends and families as it does for the smoker, said Matthew Schrock. So about one-third of appeals for help in quitting the habit come from non-users.
Schrock works for Kansas Tobacco Quitline, a telephone counseling service designed to help people through a series of sessions to quit their dependency on tobacco products. It is funded by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the American Cancer Society.
Schrock talked with members of Thrive Allen County at their meeting Monday night in Savonburg. Because Thrive is an organization dedicated to helping improve the health and wellness of Allen County citizens, Schrock’s talk dovetailed neatly with Thrive’s mission.

THE FREE counseling service is conducted by therapists trained in smoking cessation. It begins with a call to 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) where callers tell briefly of their circumstances. Different courses of treatment are prescribed to differing situations, Schrock said. Such things include pregnancy, depression, age and whether the caller is the smoker or someone who wants to help another quit.
Some situations require more counseling sessions than others, Schrock said. Pregnancy, for example, allows for eight sessions; depression, five sessions. Special sessions are designed for teenagers who smoke or chew tobacco.
The sessions are spread out over several months with a follow up at month four. Sessions for “crisis moments, when extra support is needed down the road,” are also available, Schrock said.
The program has a success rate of 41 percent remaining tobacco-free after four months, Schrock said. It typically receives about 1,000 callers a year.
Because it cannot help pay for products such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum, proven to be very effective in beating the habit, the program’s success is not what it could be, Schrock said. That said, some insurance companies help pay for the patches and gum and those who qualify for Medicaid can receive such products free or at a greatly reduced price, he said. Also, some pharmacies give discounts on such products.
Ironically, it’s those who can least afford to use tobacco products that do, Schrock said. Thirty percent of the state’s estimated 436,000 smokers are desperately poor, making an annual salary of $15,000 or less, thus devoting about 10 percent or more of their income to support the habit.
A one-pack-a-day habit typically costs $150 a month. The same amount of money could pay for a nicotine patch which is usually successful in helping beat the addiction in a few months’ time.
An additional $2,000 to a person’s pocketbook is an incentive to quit, Schrock said, but recognizes that because of nicotine’s addictive qualities it is especially hard to beat.
“That’s why we’re here,” he said of the Kansas Quit Tobacco effort.
It’s a phone call that could make a world of difference.