Published: Jan 29, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 26, 2013 02:13 PM
HILLSBOROUGH - The typical smoker tries to quit five to eight times before kicking the habit.
A new nicotine replacement therapy option for Orange County smokers will combine medication and counseling, which federal researchers say can work better than either option alone.
The most common causes for a relapse are stress, weight gain and withdrawal symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, the cost of not quitting is higher, they say.
Tobacco-related death and disease costs an average of $4,260 a year for each adult smoker, officials report. That’s $96 billion in medical expenses, $97 billion in lost productivity and roughly 435,000 deaths.
The county’s pilot program will give smokers who want to quit another place to seek support. It’s also part of a six-month campaign to make the public aware of the county’s Smoke-Free Public Places Rule implemented Jan. 1.
The rule prohibits smokers from lighting up in most places, including bus stops, sidewalks, parks and common areas in public buildings.
“We’re doing everything we can to get as many people to quit smoking as possible” before enforcement starts in July, said Colleen Bridger, director of the Orange County Health Department.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners approved $25,000 in general fund dollars for the program last week. The money could help up to 260 residents.
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey found about 70 percent of all smokers would like to quit. Since 2002, former smokers have outnumbered those who still smoke.
The Health Department estimates about 16 percent – roughly 15,000 – of Orange County adults smoke. It would cost about $1.5 million to provide all of them with smoking cessation materials, health officials said.
The county will work with Quitline NC to distribute free nicotine replacement products, such as lozenges, gum and patches, to interested residents. Quitline NC also offers free, 24/7 phone-, email- and web-based counseling.
Bridger said they also have 12 volunteers starting group classes Feb. 1 as part of the American Cancer Society’s Freshstart program.
Orange County employees will be able to take advantage of UNC’s Nicotine Dependence Program, which will provide a half-day service each week at the Health Department in Hillsborough.
Bridger said the county’s public smoking cessation program is unusual. Similar programs are offered in workplaces, she said
If the UNC program is successful, it could open up to other residents, she said. The Health Department also will review the nicotine replacement therapy program after three months to decide whether to expand it next year, she said.