SEA Members in Small but Mighty Program Take on Big Tobacco

Perhaps you didn’t know that within the NH Department of Health & Human Services there is a NH Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.  The team is small, but has produced some mighty results over the years.  We thought you might like to learn about the program and some of the resources it can provide.  The program focuses on preventing NH youth from beginning to use tobacco; eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke; promoting quitting tobacco among users; and prioritizing efforts to reach those most affected by tobacco.  This week’s focus is on their work regarding quitting tobacco use.

State Program Encourages Quitters

Even nonsmokers know that stopping using tobacco products is no small task, and doing so alone is extra hard. Fortunately for Granite Staters, help is available.

The state’s Tobacco Prevention and Control program (TPCP) offers help free of charge, via the website trytostopnh.org and a toll-free helpline at 1-800-QUIT NOW. The helpline connects you with a trained counselor who can help you quit using tobacco.

SEA member Teresa Brown is the cessation specialist with the program, and she said the helpline is a valuable resource though it’s not widely known.  There isn’t enough funding to promote the program through advertising, but they work with health care providers to spread awareness. The program makes it relatively easy for medical providers to take action, by referring patients to the helpline.

“If a doctor says, ‘hey, have you thought about quitting,’ they can say ‘I’ll refer you to this program, and once I refer you, you’ll get a call back,” she said. “It’s a really nice resource for them.”

The way it works is that doctors fill out a referral form, which they then send into the program. Patients usually hear back within three days. Brown said providers appreciate that they can make referrals electronically, a feature that puts NH’s program on the cutting edge.

“Our councilors can write back to providers to say that, for example, they didn’t reach the patient or the patient declined services,” she said. “That’s key, especially with that big feedback loop coming around. This is a follow-up service that doctors can use without having to put any time or effort into.”

TPCP receives no state funding, drawing all of its funding from the federal government. The CDC has recommended that the state spend $19.2 million on tobacco prevention, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which also notes that the tobacco industry spent an average of $107 million a year marketing tobacco in New Hampshire between 2001 and 2010.  With more funding, the program could help that many more people, especially low-income residents, stop smoking or chewing and live healthier lives. A startling 57 percent of those on Medicaid in New Hampshire smoke.

“It’s sad to see people suffering because of smoking-related problems,” Brown said. “If only they had the help.”

“We can give counseling away through the helpline, but that’s all we can give away,” she said. “It would be great if we could get funding to give away nicotine patches.”

Any New Hampshire resident can make use of the hotline by calling 1-800-QUIT NOW. You can also call for information for someone else you’re trying to help quit tobacco. For more information, visit trytostopnh.org.

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