Health Services program aims to help smokers quit

Caleb Jenkins

Service once free, now costs money after funding cut

For 25 years, Student Accessibility Services employee Sue Smith had a schedule for smoking a pack of cigarettes every day.

“I would have three cigarettes between the time I woke up and left for work,” Smith said.

But since attending the eight-week Smoking Cessation program offered by University Health Services, she has remained smoke-free for over a year.

“The Smoking Cessation program was created to help students, staff and faculty at Kent State quit smoking, while also providing smokers with skills and techniques to remain smoke-free,” UHS Health Educator Sharon Briggs said.

Overall, the program kept an even ratio of students to faculty and staff.

“I expected the program to have more people around my age,” Smith said.

Phone, messaging give alternative ways to quit

In order to educate people about cancer, the National Cancer Institute, the nation’s leading agency for cancer research, established a way to provide information to the public: the Cancer Information Service.

The CIS allows information specialists to answer questions by telephone and through LiveHelp’s instant-messaging service for free. Anthony Beal, public affairs specialist at the institute, said anyone who visits the Web site can have access to the chat line.

Beal said cancer information representatives do not give medical advice.

“They just give information about how to quit smoking,” he said.

According to a cancer information service representative, in 2004, 12,000 people used LiveHelp and 200,018 called the hotline.

• Hotline: 1-800-4-CANCER.

&bull Available Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

&bull LiveHelp chat: www.cancer.gov/help

&bull Available Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Samantha Tosado

The program also created a social bond between those involved in the program, said Smith. Two others went through the program and quit smoking the same time as Smith.

“I’d hug either one of them if I saw them on the street,” Smith said.

Nearly 75 percent of smokers in the program quit smoking by the end of the eight-week program. Overall, the program had a 55 percent success rate after a 30-day follow up, Briggs said.

But in June 2008, the funding for the program, which was once free to participants, was re-directed by the state, leaving UHS with no funding. Still, UHS will continue to offer the smoking cessation program.

“The program was too important and too successful to completely stop,” Briggs said.

But without funding, the program can no longer offer nicotine replacement therapy for free.

“We will need to have a minimal charge of 10 dollars for faculty and staff and five dollars for students,” Briggs said. UHS is currently working to have the program covered by insurance.

The program was started several years ago, and in January 2007, UHS was invited to participate in the Portage County Tobacco Prevention Coalition, a group with a mission to reduce the incidence, impact and influence of tobacco in Portage County through education, advocacy and community outreach.

Through the coalition, UHS was included in a grant, making the program free. The program included nicotine replacement therapy such as Chantix, the patch and nicotine lozenges, Briggs said. It also educated on what nicotine does to the body and how addiction varies from person to person.

Briggs said the funding was housed through the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation, which provides tobacco education and prevention programs.

To get involved in the Smoking Cessation program or find out more information, Briggs said she can be reached at (330) 672-8267 or [email protected]

“If there was ever a thought of interest in the back of someone’s mind to quit smoking,” Smith said, “join the program.”

Contact Health Center reporter Caleb Jenkins at [email protected].