Tax increase encourages smokers to kick the habit

By: Kiley Yarbrough
By: Kiley Yarbrough

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Three weeks after a federal cigarette tax increase went into effect, there are clear signs smokers are reaching out for help to quit.

The Tennessee Department of Health does not keep daily numbers on calls to it's "quit line", but workers do say the day before the tax went into effect, their calls more than quadrupled!

One 36-year-old who says he is ashamed to even reveal his identity as a smoker has already tried once to quit.

"Stopping on your own, I tried that one time and it never worked."

Now this smoker who lights up about one pack per week is on prescription medication.

"The Chantix medication actually blocks the effect of nicotine on the brain," said Dr. Jonathan Dee.

"I found that after I took it for the first week, you no longer craved a cigarette, in fact it almost tasted nasty."

Even though these medications are designed to help you quit, Dr. Dee says it's the patients determination to kick the habit that actually makes them most successful.

"For the most part, unless people put themselves through some suffering first to show themselves they are willing to quit, it's not going to work.

"It makes me nauseous, but I know that it works, so I am willing to deal with a little bit of nausea.""

And a pain in the pocketbook. The prescription medications can cost up to $180 per month. And insurance companies cover very little.

"I would say it's pretty close to zero," said Dr. Dee.

And even though the price tag may cloud your vision of what's best for you, Dr. Dee says it will pay off.

"If you calculate up how much a person spends on a pack of cigarettes a day for one month it's somewhere near $150, so generally it's worth it financially."

And doctors say after three to four months, 50-70% of patients have put the cigarettes out for good.

"I just set them down and never lit them up again."

There is free help available through the Tennessee Tobacco Quit Line.
Just call 1-800-quit-now. That's 1-800-784-8669. That program provides a tobacco quit kit and free one on one counseling. Local hospitals including Parkwest also offer smoking cessation classes. The next course begins in July. Call 373-1734 for more information.
The course does cost $50 but that is refunded if you complete all 8 classes.

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