A push to get Iowa health care professionals to convince patients to quit smoking is seeing success. Doctors, dentists, nurses and other medical experts have referred almost 70% more smokers to the Quitline Iowa program than a year ago.
Doctors are telling smokers they can call the hotline or they’ll have a hotline operator call the patient. Aaron Swanson, interim director of the Iowa Division of Tobacco Use Prevention and Control, says that’s a huge boost. “We really got some help from our local partners in nearly every county in Iowa,” Swanson says.
“The Quitline Iowa campaign that we initiated a little over a year ago, ‘Operation 83,’ focused on the fact that 83% of Iowans who smoke actually want to quit and, if you’re a doctor hearing this for the first time, that’s a pretty good motivator for telling them about the free help from 1-800-Quit Now.”
Swanson says they’re seeing steady progress in getting Iowans to drop the unhealthy habit. “We’ve seen smoking rates in Iowa decrease over the past several years,” Swanson says. “As early as 2002, our smoking rate was just over 23% and that’s now at about 16%, so that represents about a 30% decrease in smoking rates.”
Swanson says the hotline staff is preparing for next week and next month, traditionally the busiest of the year as people across Iowa make New Year’s resolutions to stop smoking. “The staff at Quitline Iowa will help a caller build a quit plan that’s tailored to their needs,” Swanson says.
“They’ll walk them through that plan and even offer follow-up phone calls based around days and times that work for that individual’s schedule. Quitline Iowa is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by calling 1-800-Quit Now.”
Swanson says fewer than 5% of smokers who try to quit without medication or counseling are successful, but he says about 20% of callers to Quitline succeed. Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death for Iowans, killing more than 4,400 people every year.
Health care costs in Iowa that are directly related to tobacco use total one-billion dollars a year.