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Kentucky’s cigarette tax increase takes effect July 1; many resources available to help smokers quit

When the tax on a pack of cigarettes sold in Kentucky rises from 60 cents to $1.10 on Sunday, July 1, many Kentuckians may decide it’s a good time to kick the habit. The Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow, which convened 160 organizations to advocate for a state tobacco tax increase in an effort to reduce smoking and smoking-related illness in the Commonwealth, reminds smokers that there are many resources available to help them quit successfully.

“Many more people are former smokers than current smokers today, which proves that quitting – though hard – can be done,” said Ben Chandler, Coalition chair and also president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “What’s key is that you don’t have to do it alone. Medications and counseling are available – free of charge to most – to help you through the roughest times. As soon as you quit, your body will start to recover from some of the damage tobacco use has caused. You’ll feel better within a relatively short time, and you’ll be healthier and likely live longer as a result. It’s never too late to quit.”

Research shows that within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, a person’s blood pressure decreases and pulse rate drops. Within just 24 hours, the chance of having a heart attack decreases, and within one year, the risk of heart disease falls to half that of smokers. People who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk of many types of lung and other types of cancer (including throat, mouth, esophagus, pancreas and bladder), as well as other lung diseases and stroke. Quitting smoking also can reduce coughing, wheezing and other symptoms caused by inhaling smoke into the lungs.

Quitting smoking also reduces the risks to family members and friends who may inhale secondhand smoke, which can cause lung cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma and ear infections. Pregnant moms who are able to avoid secondhand smoke can help ensure their newborn babies will be less likely to have a cleft palate or other birth defects, be born prematurely, or be born underweight.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly seven in 10 adult smokers want to quit, and a similar percentage have tried at least once to do so in the past year.

Tips and information for Kentuckians who want to quit smoking:

Quitting is hard, but it’s possible:

• Quitting may take several attempts, but every attempt is a step along the way to quitting for good.

• Having a plan and taking advantage of the help that’s available from numerous sources can help you manage the challenges you’ll face to finally quit successfully.

• Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, perhaps as addictive as heroin, cocaine or alcohol. Most smokers become addicted to nicotine, which is found naturally in tobacco.

• Tobacco companies intentionally manipulated the nicotine levels in tobacco products, making them more addictive.

You don’t have to quit on your own:

• Kentucky state law now requires private health insurance companies and Medicaid/Managed Care Organizations to cover the cost of smoking cessation medication and programs that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This coverage includes nicotine replacement therapies, such as gums and patches, that reduce withdrawal feelings and cigarette cravings. Ask your doctor about these therapies.

• Kentucky’s Quitline program, Quit Now Kentucky, offers three different programs – a phone only program, an online-only program and a combined phone and online program – to help deal the issues that make quitting hard. Participants can choose what parts of the program will work for them. Many can access the program and nicotine replacement therapies free of cost. Visit www.quitnowkentucky.org or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to learn more.

• Many employers, health organizations, and local agencies offer free or low-cost smoking cessation programs. Check with your employer, your local health department, or the American Lung Association for a Freedom from Smoking clinic near you.

More tips from the CDC for quitting smoking are available here.

From Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow

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