¥he city’s Department of Health distributed 45,700 nicotine patch kits this past spring with Queens having the second highest number of recipients in New York City.
Preliminary information is still being collected on the free program that includes follow-up calls to participants to see how they are doing on the smoking cessation plan.
Brooklyn had the highest percentage of recipients at 29 percent, with Queens coming in second with 26 percent or 11,700 participants. The drug company Pfizer donated the nicotine replacement therapy kits that are worth $8.3 million.
Other statistics show that among heavy smokers in the city, men greatly outnumber women. Approximately 10.8 percent of female heavy smokers (about 25,000) got the patch, compared to only 6.6 percent of male heavy smokers, estimated at about 20,700.
According to the DOH, the large majority of those who received patches were in the age groups between 25 to 44 and 45 to 64 years old. Very young and very old smokers were not as strongly heard from.
“Cessation treatment works,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, DOH commissioner. “Through this program, about 8 percent of all heavy smokers in the city got free patches. If the success of this program is similar to that of our program two years ago, approximately 5,000 premature deaths will be prevented through this effort.”
The health department has nearly completed its follow-up phone calls to certain recipients to find out if they have started the nicotine replacement therapy. According to DOH spokesman Sid Dinsay, all the data is not in to learn if the program has been successful. “But we are very happy with the response,” he said.
The agency has determined that 1 in 12 heavy smokers in the city received the patches through the program. Dinsay added that many who called 311 for the patches learned of the program through word of mouth. “New Yorkers are becoming more aware (about quitting).”
The agency is also providing nicotine patch kits in communities with the highest prevalence of smokers, including Flushing and the Rockaways in Queens.
DOH officials have also reached out to over 4,500 private physicians and distributed over 6,750 patch kits and quit smoking literature to them during the campaign.
The $150 kits, which offer a six-week supply, were made available to the public in May for smokers who called 311 on a first-call, first-served basis. The campaign was completed in 36 days, faster than the previous campaign, which took 6 weeks to distribute less than 35,000 patch kits.
“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in New York City and throughout the nation,” Dr. Frieden said. “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.”
DOH statistics show that smoking kills nearly 10,000 New Yorkers every year. One-third of smokers are killed by tobacco and die on an average of 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.
For those still wanting to quit smoking, the DOH offers counseling and other resources at its smoking cessation clinics around the city. In Queens, the program is held at Elmhurst Hospital Center, 79-01 Broadway and at Queens Hospital Center, 82-70 164th Street in Jamaica. Call 311 for details.
Other options are available. The American Lung Association of Greater New York offers a seven-session program called Freedom From Smoking. The cost is $100 for the one-hour classes that meet on Monday and Wednesday at 6 p.m. at 432 Park Avenue South in Manhattan.
A session just began. To register for the next program, call 212-889-3370, extension 29. The program offers group support, education and behavior therapy techniques.
New York State offers a smokers quit line at 888-609-6292. Additional information about patch kits and specialized clinics can be found on its web site at www.nysmoke free.com.