It’s been six months since a one dollar increase in Iowa’s cigarette tax took effect, and it’s apparently encouraging a lot people to kick the habit. Esther Baker is the coordinator of Quitline Iowa, a toll free number that Iowans can call to receive counseling to help them stop smoking. She says the number of calls to Quitline Iowa have tripled since the governor signed the tax increase in March.
Baker says the tax hike is only one reason why more Iowans are calling Quitline. "On January first, Iowa Medicaid started covering the cost, with a copay, of the nicotine patch or gum for their patients who use tobacco, if those patients also do cessation counseling with Quitline Iowa," Baker says. "So that certainly has given an incentive for a lot of people to make the attempt to quit."
Baker recently added five more counselors to answer phones at 1-800-QUIT-NOW. The Quitline service now has 21 employees trained in behavioral counseling and tobacco cessation. Iowa’s tax on cigarettes is currently $1.36 a pack.
The Iowa Department of Public Health is planning an extensive telephone survey next year to get a better idea of how the tax increase has affected smoking habits in the state.