It appears that more Iowans are trying to quit smoking than ever before. The state’s best indicator of the number of people who’re making a quit attempt involves calls to the toll-free Quitline Iowa service. Bonnie Mapes, with the Iowa Department of Public Health, says Quitline Iowa has received just over 10,000 calls in the first 11 weeks of 2008. "That exceeds the total for all of 2007," Mapes says, "and that’s the year of the tobacco tax increase. So, that year was a record year in and of itself."
Since January 1, anyone 18 or older who calls Quitline Iowa can receive a free two-week supply of nicotine patches or gum. Mapes gives credit to that program for the increase in calls, but says the rising cost of cigarettes is also a factor. "But, (another) big thing is the changes in community norms around smoking," Mapes said. "We have so many more smoke-free environments than we did in the past. That, we know, is another big motivation for people to quit. If your work place is smoke-free, if public places are smoke-free, then it really motivates people to make a serious quit attempt."
Quitline Iowa is monitored seven days a week by 85 counselors that rotate shifts. Mapes says the people that have the most success at kicking the habit take advantage of Quitline’s coaching service. "When you call Quitline Iowa, they don’t just give you patches or gum, they want you to sign up for the coaching. They will give you all kinds of tips and hints and help you work out an individual quit plan for your needs," Mapes said.
The Quitline Iowa phone number is 1-800-784-8669.