Illinois wants to help people call it quits, at least when it comes to smoking.
The Illinois Tobacco Quitline is a toll-free number people can call at 1-866-QUIT-YES to get help with quitting smoking.
“From what I’ve heard, it has been very effective,” Suzy Herrington, a health educator at the Hult Center for Health Education in Peoria, said. “It has been great for people to call in when they have a craving to have someone there to listen to them, talk them down and help them get over it.”
When someone calls the Quitline, they are met with a medical professional (between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., seven days a week) who will discuss anything smoking related with them, including tips on how to quit and examples of why someone should quit. If someone calls after hours, that person can leave a message and their call will be returned the next business day.
“I think the biggest thing now is the increase in the tax and cost of cigarettes,” Herrington said. “People are starting to wake up and realize that it is a good time to quit.”
For people calling who qualify, nicotine patches are given as well.
“I think the biggest things they supply is the telephone support and the patches,” Herrington said. “The Quitline is a good resource for people. You can tell someone to quit but to do it alone is a big feat.
“There are tobacco addiction specialists there to talk to people and also answer questions about their health.”
The medical professional will discuss the caller’s readiness to quit, history of smoking and what the person’s previous attempts to quit were like, if any.
“I think that once people have hit their fifth or sixth time, each time they try to quit they get more serious about it,” Herrington said. “They also might be a little more pessimistic but I feel like they think, ‘OK, I tried before and I need to quit now.’
“Also, they might have health conditions that are getting worse.”
Those who want the help are not just limited to the one call, however. The counselors will keep weekly communication with participants to check their progress and give help as needed for a minimum of six weeks.
Follow-up calls are then made at three, six and 12 months.
“I think it’s important to set a date and wrap their mind around that,” Herrington said. “It’s good to have a date that is important and hopefully soon in your mind.”
The counselors are able to discuss any issue relating to lung health as well as medicines and treatments. In addition, the counselors can make physician referrals to those interested.
While the Quitline is one thing helping people battle tobacco, another has been the Smoke Free Illinois act, which was passed, Jan. 1, 2008.
“Just the fact that you don’t have to worry about being surrounded at a restaurant or bar by people smoking is great,” Herrington said. “ Also, people working there are not exposed to that.
“It says that, if you make the decision to smoke, do so in the privacy of your own home or car.”
The act banned smoking within 15 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open and ventilation intakes at public places. It also banned smoking in restaurants, bars, taverns, gaming facilities, concert halls and sports arenas, bowling alleys, vehicles open to the public and more.
For those looking to quit, the psychological and physical addiction make it a challenge.
“I would say the psychological might be more of a problem than they physical,” Herrington said. “Within a week or so of quitting, the physical needs have worn off. The psychological is still there however. People have that habitual nature of needing to smoke at certain times throughout the day like when they get in their car or after they eat breakfast.
“It’s also harder for people to quit when they live with someone who is a smoker too.”
When someone quits smoking, the benefits begin almost immediately and last.
Within a year, the risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half and, after 15 years, the risk is nearly the same as someone who never smoked.
After five years, the risk of stroke is reduced to that of someone who never smoked.
The risk of lung cancer drops in half after 10 years.
“The two biggest health problems are for their lungs, where tar builds up,” Herrington said. “Tar can cause cancer among other problems.
The second problem is the heart. People don’t realize that tobacco-related heart disease is the No. 1 killer.
“The benefits of quitting smoking start immediately and carry on through five, 10 years and more after quitting.”