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Queens Chronicle

City Gives Free Nicotine Patches To Resident Callers At 311

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Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2005 12:00 am

For smokers wanting to quit, the city has a deal for you.

By calling 311 and meeting some requirements, a six-week supply of nicotine patches worth $150, can be yours for free. “It’s our way of encouraging smokers to quit, and what better way than now,” said city Department of Health spokesperson Sid Dinsay.

He noted that with the high price of cigarettes and the lack of places in the city where smoking is permitted, “it’s easier than ever to quit.”

The 45,000 kits, with a total value of $8.3 million, were donated by Pfizer Inc. Now into its second week of the campaign, the DOH has distributed about one-third of the kits.

To be eligible for the program, callers must be city residents, at least 18 years old and be willing to have follow-up calls on their success. “This is for people who need it the most and we will be calling back to see how they are doing,” Dinsay said.

Those interested in participating should call 311 between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight. The kits will be mailed to those who meet the requirements.

“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in New York City and throughout the nation,” said DOH Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden. “More than one million New Yorkers smoke, putting themselves and their families at risk for preventable illness and death, including heart disease, cancer and stroke.”

He noted that most people who smoke want to quit, and with help, such as the patches, they have a better chance of succeeding.

Pfizer spokesperson Karen Kasten said her company wants to help struggling smokers become nonsmokers for good. “New York has been our hometown for more than 150 years and we want to help our neighbors fight a fight that’s winnable.”

The DOH estimates that fewer than 1 in 5 residents smoke. The city’s crackdown on smoking under Mayor Bloomberg has eliminated smoking in restaurants and bars.

Besides the phone campaign, over the next two months public health teams will provide nicotine patch kits in communities with the highest prevalence of smokers, including Flushing and the Rockaways in Queens.

For others, there are DOH-sponsored smoking cessation programs at Elmhurst Hospital Center, 79-01 Broadway and at Queens Hospital Center, 82-70 164th Street in Jamaica. Those programs provide intensive counseling with the use of nicotine replacement therapy.

Last year the city DOH held a similar stop smoking campaign and distributed 35,000 nicotine patch kits in six weeks. “Of those people, one-third had successfully quit,” Dinsay said. That is greater than expected.”

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