OLYMPIA – Today, the Washington State Quitline is marking its 20th Anniversary and announcing modernized services that meet ongoing and emergent needs, from helping adults quit smoking – a risk factor for severe COVID-19 illness – to curbing the youth vaping epidemic.
Since November 2000, the Quitline has provided free, personalized, phone-based tobacco cessation counseling to tens of thousands of callers, saving them money and helping them live longer. This year, the North American Quitline Consortium ranked the Washington State Quitline second in the nation on participant quit rate.
“We are proud to see Washington State citizens taking positive steps to quitting tobacco,” said Board of Health Chair, Tye Menser. “Quitline is a very important asset, and we are proud to celebrate its 20th year. I encourage those who are looking to break free from tobacco to reach out and take that first step!”
An evaluation of 2018-19 Quitline services estimated that nearly 35 percent of participants had quit tobacco within seven months of registering, and for every dollar Washington spends on services, it saves five dollars in lost productivity, medical, and other costs.
Still, smoking costs Washington more than $2.8 billion in annual health care expenditures. Nationally, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death, and Washington is no exception. Approximately 8,300 Washington adults die each year from smoking, with a disproportionately high burden on minorities and people who receive low wages. As of 2019, 11% of adults in Thurston County smoke cigarettes.
Many Washingtonians, including Medicaid clients, are eligible for tobacco cessation services through their health plans. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant enables the Quitline to provide five counseling calls and two weeks of nicotine replacement therapy to uninsured and underinsured participants. In 2019, the Quitline registered 81 of these participants in Thurston County, 17.3% of whom vape.
Any Washingtonian can connect with the Quitline to learn about services available to them. In addition to calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW, Washingtonians can now text READY to 200-400 to register for free phone-based counseling, as well as text- and web-based cessation support. This support is increasingly tailored to meet the needs of specific populations, from teens who vape to adults with serious mental illness who smoke. Health care providers can also refer patients online at quitline.com.
The Quitline’s 20th Anniversary coincides with this year’s Great American Smokeout, the American Cancer Society event that promotes tobacco cessation.