Quitting smoking or chewing tobacco is among the most common New Year’s resolutions. Now that several communities in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield Counties have raised taxes on all tobacco products the additional expense might add more impetus to quit. Not to mention the well-known health impacts of tobacco products.
Voters in Pitkin, Eagle and Summit counties, as well as in the communities of Crested Butte, Glenwood Springs, New Castle and Vail have all passed local taxes on cigarettes, vaping products, chewing tobacco, and other tobacco products such as cigarillos. The new revenue from these tax increases will improve public health services, including supporting substance use prevention and cessation services.
Statistics show that most people who smoke or chew tobacco have seriously considered quitting, and local Public Health officials agree that the increasing cost of tobacco may make now the perfect time to try. Also, as the national age to buy tobacco products has increased to 21, a younger population may be looking for support to quit.
“Quitting tobacco is the single most important thing a person can do to improve their health,” said Risa Turetsky, Health Promotion Program Administrator at Pitkin County Public Health and a Family Nurse Practitioner. “Some effects are immediate: blood pressure can go down in the first few days. Some take longer, but it’s important to remember that every tobacco-free day is a healthier day.”
Although nearly 80% of smokers say they want to quit every year, per the CDC, few use free support services that are proven to help them succeed. However, for those who do get free coaching and quit smoking medications from the QuitLine, the rate of success is about seven times greater than for those who try to quit on their own.
It’s easier than ever to quit smoking, chewing or vaping with so many resources available. The QuitLine provides coaching for adults and youth 12 and older at coquitline.org or coyouthquitline.org, or just call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Medications are available to those 18 and older. Online enrollment takes just five minutes and tobacco users can get coaching either online through chat, through texting, or over the phone. Ordering free nicotine patches, lozenges or gum is as easy as shopping online. Just log in, order your product, and let the QuitLine ship it to your door. And everything is free.
There are also other resources online and in the valley. Valley View Hospital runs a tobacco cessation small group program for adults on the first Tuesday of each month (call for information and to register 970-384-7168), and for youth under 18 who want help quitting e-cigarettes or any tobacco product, Youth Zone (youthzone.com) offers counseling. Also, for kids in school, most of the schools offer support. Aspen Strong (aspenstrong.org) maintains a directory of mental health providers who can help to address underlying stressors that have been obstacles to quitting. Finally, check in with your employer and your health insurance - almost all health insurance covers tobacco cessation counseling and products at 100%, and if you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or health coaching, they often offer free counseling by trained tobacco cessation professionals. Finally, check online - there are now amazing websites (i.e., SmokeFree.gov) and apps (i.e., #ThisisQuitting) to help you reach your goal.
“As many people look to vaping as a way to quitIt’s important to remember that switching to e-cigarettes is not quitting tobacco,” said Turetsky. “Vaping has inherent dangers, and no vape product is approved by the FDA as a quitting support tool. Also, people who both vape and continue to smoke sometimes may have worse health outcomes,” according to Turetsky
Thinking of helping someone you care about quit? There are free resources at TobaccoFreeCO.org to set you up for success as you support them.
“Local communities are taking important steps to prevent young people from becoming addicted to nicotine and supporting the strong majority of tobacco users trying to quit. There’s never been a better time to start the new year off free from tobacco addiction,” Turetsky said.
Risa Turetsky, Pitkin County Public Health, Health Promotion Program Administrator
Karen Koenemann, Pitkin County Public Health, Director