The World Health Organization has proclaimed Thursday “World No Tobacco Day," in an attempt to reduce tobacco use.
Arizona officials say a state program helps thousands of people quit each year, at a higher rate of use than in other states.
Less than 1 percent of people trying to quit smoking nationwide call quit lines to get help. But 6 percent of Arizona smokers called the Arizona Smoker’s Helpline, also known by its acronym ASHLine, last year.
The line offers resources for people trying to quit tobacco, including coaching, information materials and answers to questions.The state Health Department uses tobacco tax revenues to pay for the program. Stephen Michael is director of the ASH helpline, and says Arizona is more successful than other states in helping people quit.
"Part of it is because the state health department has made a commitment to continue funding it at a level to provide a higher level of services than a lot of states have the funding to afford at this point," he says.
He also attributes the reduction in Arizona smokers to two changes in 2006. That year, the federal government added a $1 tax to cigarettes, as did the tobacco industry, adding $2 to the cost of a pack. Also that year, Arizonans approved a statewide ban on smoking in workplaces, including restaurants and bars.
The Arizona Smoker’s Helpline recognizes that tobacco and nicotine are addictive, Michael says, and focuses on why it’s so hard to quit, not just strategies for quitting.
The average person tries to quit smoking 14 times before they are successful, and 10,000 to 12,000 Arizona smokers use the line each year, Michael says.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says states need to spend more money on tobacco prevention programs to reduce the number of people who start smoking each year.
The ASHLine started in 1995, and operates out of the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Services are available at 1-800-556-6222, or online at www.ASHLine.org.