A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

New list provides resources for Kentuckians looking to quit smoking; low-cost NRT products available

Kentuckians who want to quit smoking have at least two dozen sources for free and low-cost nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, such as patches, gums, lozenges and sprays, according to a list made available by the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow and developed by the Kentucky Cancer Consortium and the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

NRT products are medications that help reduce nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms. They can double smokers’ chances of quitting for good, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And research has shown that NRT products, which have been around for about 30 years, are safe to use for almost all adults without first consulting a doctor. Only pregnant women, teens and people with serious health issues should talk with their doctor first.

Many local Kentucky health departments offer free NRT to those participating in the American Lung Association’s “Freedom from Smoking” clinics or the state Quitline program. Statewide, the Kentucky smoking cessation hotline, QuitnowKY, also has limited supplies of NRT products for participants. And nationwide, the American Lung Association, Quit.now (operated by GSK, the maker of NicoDerm CQ and Nicorette), and Tweet 2 Quit have programs that offer free NRT. See the full list at www.healthy-ky.org.

Another fact sheet for health professionals – Tobacco Treatment Coverage in Kentucky: Your Questions Answered – from the Kentucky Cancer Consortium Lung Cancer Network answers questions about a new state law that reduces patients’ barriers to comprehensive tobacco treatment.

“We want to help Kentucky health care providers and their patients have access to resources to help more Kentuckians become nonsmokers and reduce their risk for all types of cancers,” said Jennifer Redmond Knight of the Kentucky Cancer Consortium. “It is difficult to keep up with what is available throughout the state and our goal is to improve communication and coordination of efforts.”

“Quitting smoking is hard but it’s possible, and it can be a kick-start to much better health, both short-term and over a lifespan,” said Ben Chandler, Chair of the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow. “Nicotine replacement products can make the difference between one more try and quitting for good.”

More than two in five Kentuckians who smoke live on annual incomes of less than $25,000 per year, according to America’s Health Rankings, so making NRT products free or low-cost can make a significant impact on reducing Kentucky’s high smoking rate, the Coalition said. Kentucky law also requires private health insurance companies and Medicaid/Managed Care Organizations to cover the costs of smoking cessation medication and programs that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This coverage includes NRT products.

According to the 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.

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. In addition, quitting smoking 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 cleft palate or other birth defects, be born prematurely, or be born underweight.

From Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow

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