Hotline helps smokers quit

State program offers free nicotine-replacement patches

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— Three weeks ago, Vickie Szumski started using nicotine-replacement patches to kick her seven-cigarette-a-day habit.

She hasn't had a cigarette since.

"I'm really not scared that I will be needing a cigarette," she said.

Szumski isn't sure that would have happened if her boss, Nancy Clapsaddle, hadn't paid for nicotine-replacement therapy. A two-week supply costs about $50.

Many more Colorado smokers have the same opportunity.

Colorado Quitline, a free telephone service that helps people stop using cigarettes and tobacco products, announced this week that it will provide free nicotine-replacement therapy to anyone who enrolls in its cessation program.

Quitline has been bombarded with so many calls that the state Department of Public Health and Environment has had to add more operators.

The patch is among the more effective ways to kick smoking or chewing-tobacco habits, according to the State Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership, which runs Quitline.

The patch is applied to the skin once a day, providing a steady dose of nicotine in a 16- to 24-hour period. The level of nicotine in the patches is reduced until a person no longer needs it.

Szumski noticed a significant drop in her cigarette cravings with the first patch.

"I couldn't believe it," Szumski said.

Szumski once forgot to use the patch. "That was a rough day," she said.

Nicotine occurs naturally in the tobacco plant, but the 4,000 other chemicals in cigarettes are responsible for the majority of cancer and harmful effects.

Nicotine for replacement therapy is manufactured through pharmaceutical methods. The addiction risk is very low compared with nicotine in tobacco, according to the Prevention Partnership.

Smokers enrolled in Quit--line's program will receive a four-week supply of nicotine-replacement patches through the mail, in addition to free counseling.

Another four-week supply will be available to callers who remain in the cessation program -- about a $200 value.

Quitline is funded by Colorado's increased tobacco tax, so smokers and chewing-tobacco users are paying for their therapy.

Quitline is available in English and Spanish seven days a week. Callers must be 18 or older to qualify for nicotine-replacement therapy.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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