You’ve seen the ads.
“I want to give you some tips about getting ready in the morning.”
And heard the branding.
“Find three ways to quit at TobaccoFree.com”
It’s all part of a multi-million dollar, multi-decade campaign to help Floridians stop smoking, but it’s more than just scare tactics and cleaver messaging. There’s real help available.
Tobacco Free Florida offers classes on kicking the habit, a 24 hour hotline for quitters who feel their willpower fading. There are even nicotine patches, all free of charge.
“They would get two weeks of nicotine replacement therapy and it is free of charge,” says Shannon Hughes with Tabacco Free Florida.
Shannon Hughes is the Bureau Chief of Tobacco Free Florida. The program is operated through the Department of Health and funded by the 1997 tobacco settlement.
“We receive 15% of tobacco settlement funds,” said Hughes.
This year the budget is 64 million dollars, which is small compared to the toll smoking takes on Florida’s economy.
According to the Department of Health, smoking costs 20 billion dollars a year in lost productivity and early deaths. There’s 1.2 billion dollars in Medicaid expenses alone.
“Tobacco illness and death takes a tremendous toll on our state’s economy and the health of people and so it works in favor of all of us to decrease, to reduce smoking as much as possible,” said Hughes.
Smokers flood the Tobacco Free Florida website and hotline every January looking for help with their New Years resolution. But statistics show for first time quitters, they’ll fail between eight and 11 times before they finally kick the habit.
Since the programs inception smoking is on the decline. Right now about 20%, or one in five Floridians, is a smoker.