ENROLLMENT SPIKES AT MESA COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT TOBACCO CESSATION CLASSES
New federal taxes have given a growing number of Mesa County residents the impetus to quit smoking or chewing tobacco.
Enrollment for the Mesa County Health Department’s monthly tobacco cessation class jumped in April from the normal 12 people to 51, forcing the Health Department to add two additional classes.
Nearly every single person in the four-week class said they have wanted to quit using tobacco, and the new federal taxes that went into effect April 1 pushed them to finally take action, said Cathie Nicholson, tobacco program coordinator with the Health Department.
“They said it has been a financial burden,” Nicholson said.
On April 1, the tax on a pack of cigarettes went from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack. The tax on smokeless tobacco went from 19.5 cents to 50 cents per pound.
The federal tobacco tax, the largest increase in history, was implemented to raise billions for the expansion of health care coverage for children.
Nicholson, a former smoker herself, said the Health Department has even more tools to help people quit using tobacco.
After several times trying, Nicholson quit cold turkey. It was the 1980s and there wasn’t anything on the market to help her, she said.
Now, there are prescription medications, Chantix for example, to help people stop smoking.
However, prescription drugs can cause side effects in some people, such as behavioral changes.
Improvements also have been made to over-the-counter nicotine replacement methods, which release nicotine into the bloodstream, Nicholson said.
Nicotine gum used to be rock hard and flavorless. Now it comes in a multitude of fruit flavors and is easier to chew.
Nicotine patches that stick to arms are available.
Nicholson said quitting cold turkey is still the best option because that enables a person to stop using nicotine immediately. But quitting cold turkey is not possible for everyone, she said.
In fact, the average person tries to quit eight times before being successful, Nicholson said.
She warned that people shouldn’t enroll in a tobacco cessation class unless they are seriously ready to quit. Enrolling in a class with packs of cigarettes stashed away is not
beneficial because it is harder to quit if tobacco is still readily available.
“We are here to help those who want to quit,” Nicholson said.