Balto. Co. smokers get help to kick habit

Health Department offers to send area residents to one of six free courses

`We wanted to let people choose'

Cigarette Restitution Fund to cover costs of initiative

January 20, 2003|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

In a move Baltimore County officials hope will reduce the number of nicotine-addicted residents, the county Health Department is offering to send area smokers to programs to help them kick the habit for free.

Under the new initiative, which began last week, the Health Department will act as an intake center for smokers who want to quit. Staff members will evaluate them and then send them to one of six stop-smoking courses, which range from group classes to acupuncture programs to hypnosis sessions.

The state's Cigarette Restitution Fund, which was set up as part of the settlement that Maryland and other states reached with the nation's largest tobacco companies, will cover the cost for the county. According to the terms of the settlement, the state will receive $4.4 billion over 25 years.

Other Baltimore-area jurisdictions have their own tobacco-prevention programs. Harford County has two instructors that run classes for residents looking to quit. Brenda F. Turner, who helps run those classes, said 20 to 30 people enroll in each six-week program.

But Baltimore County's new effort is different because it lets smokers pick from a variety of established programs rather than sending everyone to the same county-run sessions.

"We wanted to let people choose," said William L. Follet, the director of the division of health education and staff development in the county Health Department.

Follet said the county has enough grant money to pay for the treatment of 1,000 to 1,200 adults. The new initiative is not for young smokers, but Follet said the Health Department could refer people to other programs for children who use tobacco products.

In order to raise interest among county smokers -- who comprise about 20 percent of the county's adult population, Follet said -- the Health Department is advertising the program on the radio and on 20 county buses.

Anyone interested in the tobacco cessation program can call the county's referral line at 410-887-3395.

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