State's Tobacco Quitline back in service

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If you want to stop smoking, Washington state is once again in a position to help.

New state and federal funding has restored the Department of Health's toll-free Tobacco Quitline. Help from the service can significantly increase a person's chances of kicking the habit, state health officials said.

Funding cuts in 2011 eliminated free Quitline help for many, including people without health insurance.

"Getting our Quitline back in business for everyone has been one of my priorities, and I'm thrilled it's happening," said Gov. Chris Gregoire in a press release. "For the last year we've been the only state without Quitline help for people without insurance. That's unacceptable. The Tobacco Quitline truly is a state service that saves lives and money. We must be there when people need help."

Starting today, all adults in Washington -- regardless of insurance status -- can call 800-QUIT-NOW or 877-2NO-FUME in Spanish, to receive free counseling, a personal quit plan, quit kit and referrals to local resources. Eligible callers can also get a supply of nicotine patches or gum.

In the past year, more than 6,500 people called the Quitline for help but didn't qualify for service and were placed on a call-back status if funding was restored, Department of Health officials noted.

The Quitline is a key part of Washington's tobacco use prevention and control efforts, which have contributed to a 30 percent drop in adult smoking since 2000, according to the Health Department. More than 170,000 people have received help from the Quitline since it opened in that year. The estimated 329,000 fewer smokers in the state represents an overall savings of $3 billion in future health care costs.

In Washington, about 50 youth start smoking each day and about 7,900 people die every year from tobacco-related diseases, officials said.

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