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New York City offers residents free nicotine patches

From Debra Goldschmidt
CNN

A free six-week supply of nicotine patches will be offered to New Yorkers on a first-come, first-served basis until the 35,000 kits are gone.
A free six-week supply of nicotine patches will be offered to New Yorkers on a first-come, first-served basis until the 35,000 kits are gone.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- City health officials are offering a free six-week supply of nicotine patches to residents who want to quit smoking as part of the city's comprehensive anti-tobacco program, the officials announced Wednesday.

The patches may come in handy. On Sunday, the city enacted new laws prohibiting smoking in bars and restaurants.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said 25 people die every day in New York City as a result of tobacco use. He said some 1.4 million people in New York smoke, but that 70 percent of them want to quit. Using the patch doubles the likelihood they will be able to kick the habit, he said.

The program is a one-time offer to New York City residents over the age of 18 who call the New York Smokers' Quit Line toll free at 1-866-NYQUITS. The medication will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, until the 35,000 kits available are gone.

Those who qualify, based on a screening process done over the phone, will receive a six-week supply of nicotine patches: two weeks of 21 mg patches, two weeks of 14 mg patches and two weeks of 7 mg patches.

Each recipient will be contacted after two weeks and four weeks for a follow-up call to see how they're progressing. A random sampling of participants will be contacted six months later to see if they are non-smokers.

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation operates 14 smoking cessation clinics throughout the city, which provide free counseling and free nicotine replacement therapy. Frieden said offering the medication via the Quit Line breaks down the barrier of having to see a physician and he anticipates that more people will try to quit since he says it's as simple as a phone call.

Regarding the new ban on smoking in all bars and restaurants, Frieden said he's encouraged by compliance so far and said having fewer places to smoke is helpful for those who are trying to quit.

Smoking cessation is the third step of New York City's five-point program for tobacco control. The first step was the raising of taxes on tobacco products. Second was improved enforcement of existing tobacco laws and enaction of new laws. Public education and an evaluation of smoking trends, tobacco industry tactics and smoking cessation innovations are also part of the program.

The patch program will cost the city $2.5 million. Frieden said it's a cost-effective move, since "tobacco kills three times as many people as alcohol, murder, and suicide combined."

Tuesday, a study presented at the American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions found that a smoking ban in Helena, Montana, resulted in a decrease in heart attacks among residents. Frieden said the smoking ban in New York City is sure to have a positive impact on the health of its residents.


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