Originally created 11/29/06

Teens can get help to stop smoking



South Carolina teens looking to quit smoking have free help at their fingertips.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control expanded its Tobacco Quitline to include the Youth Support Program.

The quitline is aimed at getting teens to stop smoking and is especially helpful for youths living in areas that lack classroom cessation programs, said Mary-Kathryn Craft, a spokeswoman for the department's division of tobacco prevention and control.

"In August, we revamped the quitline to include more services, and in November we expanded it for teens," she said.

The expansion was developed because of the Youth Access to Tobacco Prevention Act, which took effect in August. The act requires teens younger than 18 who are caught with tobacco products to take a quitting or prevention program. They also can be fined up to $25.

The quitline can be used to satisfy the courts, Ms. Craft said. It consists of five calls, which are individually tailored to the smoker. Calls include talk of triggers, peer influences and stressors.

"You call the number and you'd be assigned a quit coach, who is somewhat like a counselor," she said. "And you would stick with that counselor the whole time."

The smoker also receives materials in the mail and can call the toll-free number when feeling peer pressure or a craving to use tobacco, Ms. Craft said.

"The program is not different for people who are court appointed or not court appointed," she said. "The only difference is if you are ticketed, you have to complete the program and take the certificate to the courts."

In its two years of existence, the quitline has averaged 81 calls per month.

Ms. Craft said the program has the ability to track how many teens say they've quit smoking because of the program.

About 24 percent of South Carolina high schoolers light up, compared to 22.5 percent of adults, according to Department of Health and Environmental Control statistics.

"Those are above the national average," she said. "We would love to have more calls."

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.