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Study gives smokers a chance to ‘STOP’


With the Smoke-free Ontario Act coming into effect on May 31, smokers will be feeling more pressure than ever to quit in the year ahead.

And a new smoking cessation study, called the Smoking Treatment for Ontario Patients (STOP), is giving them the chance to try butting out for good at no cost.

All they have to do is pick up the phone and call 1-800-350-5305.

“It’s a pilot project that the Ministry of Health Promotion has put into place. It’s the provision of free nicotine replacement therapies [NRTs] for smokers,” Jennifer McKibbon, Northwest Tobacco Strategy co-ordinator for the Northwestern Health Unit, noted yesterday afternoon.

“It’s a limited time promotion. It was launched about two or three weeks ago, and they had 14,000 doses when they opened it up,” McKibbon added, saying STOP was highly-promoted in southern Ontario but far less so in this part of the province.

The response to the study was great, with thousands of people calling the toll-free number and leaving their information.

Then shortly thereafter, those who called the number only would get a recording saying the study needed no more participants.

But in the past couple of weeks, those willing participants have been called back to confirm their participation—and it was determined that some people who had volunteered for the study would not be participating after all.

This means the call centre is “live” again, and accepting more study participants.

“The Ministry of Health Promotion sent out an e-mail Wednesday indicating that there were still 3,000 treatments left, and that if there were any smokers who still thought they might want to make a quit attempt—having free nicotine replacement therapies to help them—there’s a phone number they could call,” noted McKibbon.

But she also stressed it is a study, meaning participants won’t necessarily be given their NRTs and left on their own. They can expect some follow-up questions in return for their free treatment.

“There’s lots of evidence that adding NRT to a quit attempt can double your chances of being successful. So this study is trying to act on that evidence,” McKibbon said.

“I’m not part of the study, but I suspect they’re collecting more information than that, in terms of who are the smokers who are trying to quit, is NRT making a difference, and what other things can we do to help.”

McKibbon said the study has come along at a time when perhaps more people than ever may be trying to quit in anticipation of the Smoke-free Ontario Act coming into effect May 31.

“There’s people out there thinking, ‘Maybe it’s time for me to quit. I’m not going to be able to smoke at work anymore. I’m going to have go outside for all my smokes, except when I’m at home. And I probably shouldn’t there anyway because I have a kid and I shouldn’t be smoking inside,’” she remarked.

“So then they think maybe it’s time to make a quit attempt and say, ‘Here, I can get free NRTs. I’ll give this a try.’

“So that’s what this is about—trying to provide support for people who are thinking about quitting, are at that stage when they’re trying to make an attempt,” McKibbon added.

The STOP study is supported by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion, and Pfizer Consumer Health Care.

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