DHEC helps uninsured smokers quit for free

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., accounting for one in every five deaths each year.

The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control announced that free nicotine replacement therapy is available to smokers who do not have health insurance through the agency's tobacco quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

"Many people without health insurance delay using effective aids like nicotine gum or patches to help them quit smoking because they worry about the costs," said Sharon Biggers, Director of the agency's tobacco prevention and control division. "To overcome this barrier and increase the likelihood of a successful quit attempt, DHEC helps the uninsured access nicotine replacement therapies at no cost to them through our tobacco quitline."

Tobacco users who want to kick the habit in 2014 can call the SC Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). The quitline is open from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily.

All South Carolinians, insured or uninsured, who call the quitline are guaranteed at least one free session with a trained quit coach and a referral to local resources. Many callers are eligible for up to five free sessions with a quit coach, and pregnant tobacco users can get up to 10 free sessions. Free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as gum, lozenges or patches, is available for callers who do not have health insurance.

Callers who receive quitline services are 60 percent more likely to quit successfully than those trying to quit on their own, according to DHEC.  While services are for both insured and uninsured, only the uninsured are eligible for the free NRT which will be sent to the caller within one week of the session.

"Every caller can expect a one-on-one session with a professionally-trained quit coach who can assist with identifying triggers, dealing with cravings, and setting a quit date," says Lindsey Evans with DHEC media relations.

Local residents are positive about this initiative, because it helps the uninsured.

"I think that people that have the resources to quit are more likely to do it and stay focused on it but those that are under privileged or have a more difficult time, they may take the easier route which sometimes is just continuing to smoke," says Myrtle Beach resident Janelle Davis.

An estimated 759,000 South Carolinians smoke cigarettes. For every dollar spent on DHEC's smoking cessation programs, South Carolina saves an estimated $5.44 in medical expenses, lost productivity and other costs.

For more information, visit http://www.scdhec.gov/quitforkeeps.

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