Feeling frustrated over already braking that New Year's resolution to quit smoking?

The state Department of Health is making it easier for you to kick-start that beginning-of-the-year pledge.

As part of 'Determined To Quit' week, Pennsylvanians who are trying to quit tobacco can receive free nicotine patches all this week. While supplies last, Nicotine Replacement Therapy kits will be offered through the PA Free Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

This is the second year for the program. Last year, more than 2,200 free NRT kits were provided to Quitline callers. No taxpayer monies were used in the NRT kit program since the funding came from a legal settlement with the tobacco industry.

The costs in human life and the effects of smoking on the economy are staggering. The Centers for Disease Control reports nearly one of every five deaths nationwide is related to smoking, and that a staggering 440,000 are considered preventable deaths each year. Smoking alone kills more people each year than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined!

Here are some other sobering facts to consider:

Ÿ Smoking, on average, reduces adult life expectancy by approximately 14 years.

Ÿ In Pennsylvania 20,000 adults die each year from their own smoking and an estimated 2,160 adult nonsmokers die from exposure to second-hand smoke.

Ÿ For every person in Pennsylvania who dies from smoking, approximately 20 mores state residents are suffering from serious smoking-caused disease and disability, or other tobacco-caused problems.

Ÿ The CDC says that smoking deaths cost about $92 billion in the form of lost productivity from 1997 to 2001, up about $10 billion from the annual productivity losses for the years 1995-1999.

Ÿ The annual health care expenditures in the state directly caused by tobacco use is $5.19 billion and the from second-hand exposure, it's $218.5 million. That also translates to $4.73 billion in lost productivity.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Everette James knows that quitting isn't easy and that it takes practice and support. He hopes that through free Nicotine Replacement Therapy and one-on-one support via Quitline, more individuals will stay motivated to become tobacco-free.

When individuals interested in receiving a free NRT kit call the free Quitline, coaches will ask if they have any medical conditions that would rule out the safe use of nicotine patches. The kit includes a four-week supply of nicotine patches.

The Web site www.determinedtoquit.com [1] also provides guidance in developing a quit plan, a quit companion and calculator, and video blogs of Pennsylvanians sharing their own stories about how they quit using tobacco products. There is no cost for the phone support, which includes from three to five coaching sessions.

State residents are fortunate that the expert support they need to launch their own program is only a phone call away. The effort it takes to make that call can be a life-saver.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [2]