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State Cuts To Tobacco Quitline

Staff Reporter

Recent budget cuts have taken a toll on Washington's decade–old Tobacco Quitline. Now uninsured callers cannot receive help quitting tobacco. The state's Quitline handled over 160,000 calls from November 2000 until June of this year. KUOW's Anna Bodi has more.


Callers to Washington state's Tobacco Quitline hear this pre–recorded message:

Quitline: "Thank you for calling the Washington Tobacco Quitline. Congratulations on taking the first step towards quitting tobacco. Please hold while we connect your call."

But uninsured callers won't get help anymore. The Washington State Department of Health's free Tobacco Quitline services ended July 1 due to budget cuts. Support is only available to adults covered under Medicaid, commercial insurance or an employer. Tim Church is director of communications for the State Department of Health. He says there aren't comparable free alternatives for the uninsured.

Church: "One of the most concerning and frustrating pieces of this, for us, is by far the great majority of people who smoke in this state are people who have low income. The smoking rate in Washington is about 15 percent, but when you look at the smoking rate for people with lower income, it's about 30 percent, so double the general smoking rate. And those are the people who will absolutely be hurt the most because they're the least likely to have insurance. So it certainly is sad, a sad situation."

King County residents 18 and over are still eligible for free services for now, thanks to a federal grant. Quitline operators are taking the name and number of uninsured callers in case funding changes, but Church doesn't expect that to happen anytime soon.

I'm Anna Bodi for KUOW News.

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