Stop smoking programs encouraged as Ohio tobacco sales increase during pandemic

Smoking cessation medications are pictured at Drug Mart in Centerville. KAITLIN SCHROEDER

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Smoking cessation medications are pictured at Drug Mart in Centerville. KAITLIN SCHROEDER

Ohio tobacco sales have increased during the pandemic and health professionals are encouraging people to seek ways to quit during the New Year.

Quitting smoking can be a difficult New Year’s resolution to keep and even harder during the stress of a pandemic, but free help is available online and over the phone.

A little over 70% of all smokers want to quit and smoking is a risk factor for severity of illness from COVID-19, said Bruce Barcelo, program coordinator at Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services. However, the stress of the moment can make that decision difficult.

“So this is a really good time for smokers to consider that opportunity to quit. But yet, like we saw, smoking rates have been up since COVID,” Barcelo said.

Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable deaths. About 1 in 5 adults smoke cigarettes in Ohio, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, placing the state as the 11th highest smoking rate in the country in 2018.

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The state has been reporting an uptick in excise taxes collected from tobacco sales, which Ohio Office of Budget and Management said in one if its monthly budget “is likely related to heightened consumption during the continuing pandemic.”

Barcelo said ADAHMS has partnered with Truth Initiative and has a digital program, the EX program, which includes a personalized quit plan with interactive exercises; live chat coaching with experts; the longest-running and largest community of current and former tobacco users; text messaging tailored to the participant; and quit medication delivered to the participant’s home.

“Once you are enrolled in the EX, you can continue to come back and back and back. Because what we do know is that for many smokers, it takes multiple, multiple, multiple attempts before you are finally able to quit. We understand that. Every attempt gets you closer to a final quit,” Barcelo said.

The EX program was developed with the Mayo Clinic using evidence-based approaches. Nationally, it reports a 34% 9-month quit rate.

Statewide, one of the key resources available to Ohioans is a free quit line at 1-800-784-8669, where people can get free support and free quit aids such as nicotine patches.

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The CDC states that every smoker’s quit journey is different and it may take some time to find the strategies that help you stay quit. It helps to create a personalized quit plan. Some of the steps in an effective quit plan include:

  • Picking a quit date. Choose a date only a week or two away and highlight that day in your calendar or phone.
  • Telling loved ones and friends that you’re quitting. Let them know how they can help you quit.
  • Listing reasons to quit.
  • Getting rid of cigarettes and anything that reminds you of smoking.
  • Picking out feelings, places, and situations that make you want to smoke. It’s easier to avoid them if you’ve identified them.
  • Having healthy strategies to fight cravings.

Your pharmacist can also help counsel you on smoking cessation. Antonio Ciaccia, locally-based senior advisor for the American Pharmacist Association, said pharmacists have the knowledge to talk with you about the effects of different tobacco cessation medications.

“You’ve got smoking cessation products that can be prescription only and you’ve got smoking cessation products that can be over the counter, both of which are highly advised to have a discussion with your pharmacist over because of any possible contradictions. Smoking cessation is right in the wheelhouse of what I would consider baseline pharmacist training,” Ciaccia said.

How to get help quitting tobacco

The Ohio Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) provides personal quit coaching and telephone counseling free of charge to all Ohioans, regardless of insurance status or income. Quit aids such as nicotine patches, gum or lozenges are provided for up to eight weeks at no charge to eligible participants.

Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County’s Tobacco Cessation Program follows the adaptation of the eight-week LIFT (Living Independent From Tobacco) Program. People can join telephonically or virtually. A free 30-day supply of nicotine replacement therapy (nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges) will be provided upon request. People can register online at

Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services has partnered with Truth Initiative are offering a digital program, the EX program. To register for the program, visit

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