Philadelphia is handing out a holiday stocking stuffer that could save lives.
Adult smokers can get a month’s supply of nicotine replacement patches to help curb cravings.
Health commissioner Donald Schwarz said people often rely on stop-smoking aids for longer than 30 days.
“There’s a step down process, so this gets people started, and we know that once started that people –by a month–should be feeling the benefits,” he said.
This is the second year of the city giveaway. Last time, about one-third of recipients were smoke free after six months. The initiative costs about $135 per person or about $420 per quitter.
Officials say that’s a good investment considering the premium that smokers and their employers pay in health care costs.
Silas Johnson, 60, from the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia, smoked for four decades. For years, the Philadelphia resident enjoyed a cigarette every time he drank, but said he kicked the smoking habit three years ago with the help of classes and nicotine replacement.
“I was actually afraid to drink a beer, because I knew if I drank a beer I would probably want a cigarette, and I was so nervous that I almost didn’t have the beer. But I had the beer, and the craving did not come,” Johnson said.
Pulmonary physician Aditi Satti is also in the business of helping people give up cigarettes.
She leads the smoking cessation program at Temple University Health System.
“Cost is definitely a huge factor. This is just an additional motivator, so I think people will just take that additional step, just knowing they have some free medications available to help them, they go from contemplation to action just by doing this,” she said.
Satti said patches and gum can work but are most effective when combined with other kinds of support.
Philadelphia’s program includes access to phone counseling and is free to the first 5,000 residents who call the city’s helpline—1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
WHYY receives support from the city Department of Public Health for its FIT radio series and Website. The department also paid WHYY this year to conduct civic forums to gather input on its proposed tobacco control policies.