OCT. 20, 2005 | The SOSQuitline for tobacco users was up only a couple of months at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) when a poetic letter arrived for one of the counselors.
The handwritten message was from a Quitline patient.
“I woke up this morning and said goodbye to my best friends. Yes, I cried! Feeling so scared to lose the friends I’ve had for 32 years.”
While the September letter speaks of the fear of giving up cigarettes, it concludes that, “I’ll smoke no more, forever!”
It takes courage to stare down a tobacco addiction. But as the author notes, sometimes it also takes the help of others -- family, friends, God, and her SOSQuitline tobacco specialist, Camille.
UAMS, through its College of Public Health, began offering tobacco cessation services statewide in July with full-time tobacco specialists in two venues:
· Face-to-face treatment through the Arkansas Tobacco Cessation Network sites at the UAMS Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) and affiliated hospitals.
· Over the phone through the SOSQuitline, formerly operated by an affiliate of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
The number of calls to the Quitline has surpassed the expectations of Christine Sheffer, Ph.D., who set up and leads tobacco cessation programs. Between July 5 and Sept. 30, 819 Arkansans called the Quitline and 679 scheduled treatment for their addiction. The Quitline is staffed by counselors with master’s degrees from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The SOSQuitline toll-free number is (866) NOW-QUIT or (866) 669-7848.
UAMS and the College of Public Health also are trying to make it easier for health care providers to link their patients to tobacco cessation services across the state. Health care providers can use SOSWorks fax-back referral forms to have a tobacco specialist call their patients at home and discuss cessation options. The tobacco specialist will describe cessation options and encourage patients to enroll in treatment. Because the college also operates the SOSQuitline and the Arkansas Tobacco Cessation Network, patients are quickly and easily linked with treatment without having to make additional phone calls or contacts.
The SOSWorks program referred 238 patients between July 1 and Sept. 30 this year.
The College of Public Health’s treatment methods are supported by research. Full-time counselors help tobacco users quit and stay tobacco free by helping them apply basic strategies to their lives.
“People learn to look at their environment and their daily life, recognize the triggers that stimulate tobacco use and how to manage them,” said Sheffer, assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education in the College of Public Health. “Becoming aware of what triggers tobacco use is important to staying tobacco free. Everyone is different, so how one person applies these strategies may be very different from another.”
During treatment, people also learn about medications to help reduce cravings. All cessation programs at the College of Public Health refer all patients to their health care providers for a medication evaluation, will assist patients in obtaining cessation medications, and can provide nicotine patches at no cost.
“When people really understand their medications and how to use them, they’re more likely to have success,” Sheffer said. “We know that quitting tobacco isn’t easy. It takes practice. And sometimes it takes intensive treatment and customized treatment plans for different people.”
The College of Public Health also has launched two other tobacco-related service programs, including a Smoke-free Workplace Assistance Program and a Healthcare Provider Education Program.
These programs are funded through a contract from the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services using funds from the state tobacco settlement.