Mary Tucker started smoking when she was 15, while her young brain was still growing, and kept lighting up for 50 years. But, late in 2018, she quit for good with the help of the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line.
“I did this for me,” Tucker said proudly. “I promised myself for New Year’s I was really going to do it this time.”
She made one of the 11,766 total calls people made to the Quit Line for help in 2018. She said the combination of the free medication and coaching from the Quit Line made the difference. She used the patches for a steady dose of nicotine, and the nicotine lozenge when she had urges.
It used to be that smokers had to call 800-QUIT-NOW if they wanted to access Quit Line services, or be referred by a healthcare provider via fax. Now, in addition to those options, smokers can be referred via electronic health records or sign up online at www.WiQuitLine.org.
- 11,766 people called the Quit Line.
- 3,348 people enrolled in services via Fax to Quit.
- 2,750 found the Quit Line via eReferral.
- 682 enrolled online.
The past few years, the Quit Line has experienced an increase in the number of calls from people who vape nicotine and want to quit. Last year, the Quit Line assisted 900 people who vaped, up from 858 the previous year, representing approximately 14 percent of all tobacco users. Among registered users who said they vaped, the average age was 44. Only 2.4% of them exclusively used e-cigs. The rest were dual users of combustibles (or smokeless tobacco) and vapes.
With youth vaping up 154 percent among Wisconsin high school students and 272 percent among middle schoolers, it’s possible the Quit Line will see an influx of calls from people wanting to quit vaping in the future.
The Quit Line uses similar techniques to help people quit vaping as they would those who want to cease smoking, taking into account the total nicotine in the vape products as best they can.
Another trend emerged in the last few years: More callers are suffering from chronic illness like cancer or COPD. In 2006, 40 percent of callers reported having a chronic condition. In 2010, 45 percent had a chronic condition. In 2018, more than 54 percent had one.
Not only that, but about half of those who contact the Quit Line are uninsured or underinsured. One caller who quit in late 2018 said she had relapsed, in part because she was chronically ill, struggled to pay bills and felt depressed.
“The utilization data suggest that the Quit Line is serving those priority populations that bear the burden of significant tobacco-related disparities,” said Quit Line Coordinator Kate Kobinsky. “Smokers with a behavioral health condition represent approximately half of those using quitline services. So quitlines are helping people who tend to struggle the most to quit.”
The Quit Line has also been integral in UW-CTRI research, such as Dr. Stevens Smith’s R01 grant, the Striving to Quit project that helped Medicaid recipients—including some who were homeless, and the current Improving Quitline Support Study (IQS). The Quit Line is funded by the Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Control Program and is promoted by statewide and local partners throughout the state.
“The Quit Line has done a terrific job of serving smokers across the state who want to quit,” said UW-CTRI Director Dr. Michael Fiore. “Whether they are a patient referred from a clinic in Wausau, or someone in Milwaukee visiting us online, the Quit Line is there to help 24/7. Kate does a terrific job coordinating the service.”
Tucker agrees. She would refer a friend to the Quit Line, and would be there to support the friend—just as the Quit Line was there for her when she needed it. Her quit coach helped her break the routine of having a cigarette with her morning coffee. Tucker is elated to have quit.
“I can do more, breathe more than I could before,” Tucker said. “I got a little more energy than I did before.”