Quit-smoking hotlines are being swamped..

April 8, 2009 - Quit-smoking hotlines are being swamped — some as much as four times their usual volume — by smokers ready to kick the habit after the largest-ever increase in the federal tobacco tax. Many state hotlines started to see an increase last month, when tobacco companies began raising prices in anticipation of the tax increase. Philip Morris USA raised the price of Marlboros 71 cents a pack, and R.J. Reynolds raised Camel 44 cents. The federal cigarette tax went up 62 cents to $1.01 a pack.

"We're seeing magnificent volume because of the tax," says Mary Kate Salley of Free & Clear, a Seattle company that runs "quitlines" for 17 states. She says the lines got 3,250 calls on Wednesday, the day the increase took effect, up 369% from the same day in 2008. In 10 other states, calls were 163% higher than on the three previous Wednesdays, says Dawn Wiatrek of the American Cancer Society, which runs quitlines in 11 states.

All 50 states and Washington, D.C., have quitlines (800-QUIT-NOW) staffed with counselors, and more than half offer free nicotine patches, gum and lozenges, says Linda Bailey of the North American Quitline Consortium. "Quitlines are the most efficient way to help people quit," say Matthew McKenna, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Office of Smoking and Health.

Graph of quit method success rates..

References: As tax hits, smokers call 'quitlines' for help by Wendy Koch, USA TODAY, 4/6/2009.

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