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Kentucky Fights Tobacco on the Grassroots Level and Beyond

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FRANKFORT Tobacco and Kentucky have always been synonymous, and the effects have been long-standing and far-reaching. Each year, more than 8,000 Kentuckians die of illnesses caused by tobacco use.1

Dedicated to addressing tobacco use at all levels and stages of life throughout the state, the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program focuses on preventing the initiation of tobacco use among youth and young adults while helping tobacco users, from teens to pregnant women to lifelong smokers, quit. “From its inception, our program has focused on preventing initiation and promoting quitting among youth and adults, eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke and identifying and eliminating tobacco-related disparities,” states Tobacco Cessation Administrator Bobbye Gray, RN. “The programs we have put in place are working towards these goals. We need to expand our reach, and medical providers can help us do just that.”

Gray’s primary goal and passion is providing tobacco cessation through Quit Now Kentucky (1-800-QUIT NOW and ). “Since its beginning, our 1-800-QUIT-NOW Quitline has been essential in providing help to individuals from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds,” states Gray. “The line is bilingual and can accommodate over a hundred other languages with an interpreting firm. Individuals are immediately assisted with developing a quit plan and strategies to help them become successful. And if the patient is uninsured, we pay for eight weeks of free Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) to help tobacco users become more successful in quitting.”

Policy Analyst Elizabeth Anderson-Hoagland knows that education and providing the right tools to quit are key. “It’s a common misconception that everyone in Kentucky smokes,” states Anderson-Hoagland. “That simply is not true. What is true though is that our high-risk populations such as Latino youth, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities, pregnant women, and youth need more tools and education available to help them quit or not even start.”

Kentucky is the second highest in the nation for adult smokers at 26 percent and is the second largest producer of tobacco. Therefore it’s no surprise that 22 percent of pregnant women are smokers, making the state’s rate one of the highest in the country. “We have made a concerted effort to focus on maternal and child health and work with other programs on this issue,” states Gray. “Our quit line has special protocols for pregnant women, offering them a designated smoking coach and gift card incentives for keeping their appointments as they are trying to quit.”

The program has also partnered with the University of Kentucky College of Nursing to do a survey and key informant interviews with healthcare providers about the type of cessation advice LGBT patients receive. “The LGBT community has higher tobacco use and has concerns about finding LGBT-friendly healthcare programs and services. This survey will help us find appropriate programs and give providers tools to provide appropriate care to their LGBT patients,” adds Anderson-Hoagland.

The program also works hand-in-hand with many partners, including the Kentucky Lung Cancer Education, Awareness, Detection, and Survivorship (LEADS) program and the Kentucky Cancer Program. “The main focus of LEADS and the Kentucky Cancer Program is to reduce the burden of lung cancers throughout our state,” states Gray. “We are excited to do whatever we can to make the outcomes good here in Kentucky.”

It is important for physicians to know that talking about tobacco cessation and quitting makes a difference. “Research shows that if a medical provider talks to their patient for as little as three minutes about quitting, that person is more likely to make a quit attempt,” states Gray.

Anderson-Hoagland adds, “It’s common for a provider to ask if a patient is a smoker. Many people don’t consider themselves smokers but still might be smoking in a social setting, or using products like hookahs or electronic cigarettes. We prefer the question, ‘Are you using any form of tobacco?’ because it’s more inclusive.”

Combating secondhand smoke is also a major component of the program, and both Anderson-Hoagland and Gray stress the need for not only tobacco screening, but also secondhand smoke screening as well. Secondhand smoke is linked to respiratory infections in children and adults, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), heart attacks, and strokes.

“A person is never too old to quit. Quitting at any age has positive benefits, and counseling plus pharmacotherapy increases a person’s chances of quitting,” emphasizes Gray.

For more information or resources about the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program, visit

Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program. (2015, November 16). Retrieved February 5, 2016, from Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services: