Health Care Providers Urged to Refer Patients Wishing to Kick the Habit
A free telephone service that helps Californians kick the smoking habit – funded by tobacco taxes approved by California voters and operated by the University of California, San Diego – reached a milestone today as the 500,000th person called for service.
1-800-NO-BUTTS, also known as the California Smokers’ Helpline, has been helping callers since 1992, when it became the nation’s first statewide “quit line.” Today, all 50 states offer similar services as part of efforts to reduce tobacco’s toll on the public health.
“The fact that half a million Californians have called for help shows how badly people want to quit,” said Christopher Anderson, program director for the Helpline. “When you see a person who’s still smoking, despite all the information about negative health effects, you might think they don’t want to quit. But, more often than not, they just don’t know how to go about it or don’t feel confident in their ability to quit. We help them come up with a good plan and stick to it.”
The Helpline provides free, confidential service to more than 30,000 callers annually, including self-help materials, referral to local programs, and one-on-one telephone counseling. Callers who choose counseling receive up to two hours of tailored assistance spread out over five calls. Services are available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Vietnamese.
“Reaching the milestone of half a million callers is remarkable, but we have a long way to go,” said Shu-Hong Zhu, PhD, principal investigator for the Helpline. He added that there are still about four million smokers in California, and tobacco use remains the leading cause of premature death and disease. “Concerted efforts are needed to encourage more quitting among smokers and tobacco chewers.”
According to the 2005 California Tobacco Survey, 62 percent of smokers were advised by a doctor to quit smoking, but only 33 percent of those were referred to a quit smoking program.
The Helpline has experienced a big increase in referrals by health care providers, from six percent of callers in 1992 to nearly 44 percent today. Still, the Helpline wants to see more intervention by medical personnel.
“We are asking health care professionals to get more involved and help spread the word about available cessation services,” said Kristin Harms, communications manager for the Helpline. “We recommend the ‘Ask, Advise, Refer’ approach: ask your patients if they smoke or use chewing tobacco, advise those who do to quit, and refer them to 1-800-NO-BUTTS for effective help.”
Research has shown that patients who are advised to quit are more likely to try, and that those who receive telephone counseling are twice as likely to be successful.
To make it easy to refer patients, medical professionals can obtain free Take Charge cards that list the Helpline’s six language lines and provide a brief description of services. For more information about the California Smokers’ Helpline or to obtain Take Charge cards and other free promotional materials, visit www.NoButts.org or call 1-858-300-1010.
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Media Contact: Leslie Webb, 619-543-6163, L2webb@ucsd.edu