Lowell Gets Ready to Quit With Free Nicotine Patches

03/24/2008
By For more information, contact media@uml.edu or 978-934-3224

LOWELL ߝ Today the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, together with the City of Lowell and the City’s Health Alliance, announced that it is launching an exciting health initiative to help people in Lowell quit smoking.

Ready, Set, Quit Lowell is a program that encourages adults who live, work, and study in Lowell to quit smoking by offering them a free two-week supply of nicotine patches through 1-800-Try-To-STOP (1-800-879-8678).  Ready, Set, Quit is designed to motivate people who smoke to make a meaningful attempt to quit.

The program will be widely promoted through the City of Lowell’s businesses, university, college, hospitals, health centers, community groups, and voluntary agencies.  Ready, Set, Quit will run in Lowell from March 24 through May 23.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in Massachusetts.  Lowell was chosen for this pilot program because of the high smoking rate among residents of the city.  At 26.7%, the smoking rate among residents of Lowell is 50% higher than the statewide rate, contributing to avoidable illnesses, including lung cancer, asthma and cardiovascular disease.  Other data show:

  • An estimated 21,047 smokers live in Lowell (26.7% of adults 18+)
  • The smoking rate among males in Lowell is 70% higher than for the state (32.6% in Lowell compared to 19.1% statewide).
  • Smoking among middle age adults (age 45 to 64 years old) is 45% higher in Lowell (26.9%) than statewide (18.5%).
  • The rate of lung cancer mortality in Lowell is 28% higher than the state average.  The rate of lung cancer deaths in Lowell is the third highest among large Massachusetts cities and towns (those with a population greater than 40,000). 
  • The incidence of lung cancer is 12% higher for males and 16% higher for females in Lowell as compared to the state on the whole.

Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach said, “This is a truly exciting and valuable opportunity for Lowell residents, employees, and students who want to quit smoking.  Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the Commonwealth.  The Patrick-Murray Administration is committed to ending the suffering caused by tobacco use in Massachusetts, and this program is an example of that commitment.”

Use of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as the nicotine patch, has been shown to double smokers’ chances of quitting.  Using coaching services such as Massachusetts’toll-free Quitline (800-Try-to-STOP) also doubles quit rates.  However, research shows lower acceptance of these resources among some cultural and linguistic groups.  In response, Ready, Set, Quit Lowell will offer culturally specific materials and media to help smokers access both the Quitline and appropriate medications.

Lowell City Manager Bernard Lynch said, "The overwhelming medical evidence is clear: tobacco products are addictive and damaging to an individual's health. Despite the Surgeon General's warning issued more than 40 years ago, our nation, our community and our citizens are still suffering from the negative health effects of tobacco products. Lowell is a city that cares deeply about the health of its citizens. As City Manager, I am committed to achieving a healthy, vibrant community, which is why we are implementing the Ready, Set, Quit program for city residents, students, and employees. This program is designed to provide each participant the medical and supportive services necessary to make a successful quit attempt."

Norm Deschene, president and CEO, Lowell General Hospital said, “Lowell General is proud to join the Department of Public Health to bring the Ready, Set, Quit program to the community. As a leading provider of health care services in the city, it is our responsibility to ensure the health of not only our patients, but the community as a whole. This is a great program and through our partnership with the Greater Lowell Health Alliance, we’re committed to making it a success.”.”

Marty Meehan, chancellor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, said, “As an institution of higher education and one of the largest employers in Lowell, UMass Lowell is committed to the well-being of our students, faculty and staff.  As a former member of Congress, I’ve fought to make the tobacco industry accountable and know how destructive smoking is to an individual. The ‘Ready, Set, Quit’ campaign is a terrific benefit for our students and employees who want to stop smoking.”

Dorcas Grigg-Saito, CEO of the Lowell Community Health Center said, “The Health Center is pleased to partner on this campaign to help adapt the Ready, Set, Quit program for the diverse cultural backgrounds of Lowell residents. Our outreach staff is prepared especially to help tobacco users with limited English proficiency to avail themselves of this program.  Smoking is an addiction and the chances of successfully quitting are greatly increased when people use nicotine replacement therapy.”

Ready, Set, Quit aims to educate people who smoke about the use and effectiveness of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), including the nicotine patch.   The program will use multiple strategies to share the facts about NRT and to dispel myths about its use.  Included with each free nicotine patch kit sent to participants will be simplified English and Spanish instructions for using the patch.  Tens of thousands of flyers and posters will be distributed throughout the area through community partners.

Anyone living, working, or studying in Lowell who wishes to take advantage of the Ready, Set, Quit program should call 1-800-Try-To-STOP (1-800-879-8678), a toll-free telephone quitline that provides free support, self-help materials, and referrals to smokers.  Spanish speakers can contact 1-800-8-DéJALO (1-800-833-5256).  After a brief evaluation to determine eligibility, the person will be sent their free two-week supply of nicotine patches by mail.

 # # #