Calls to Quitline Iowa (1-800-QUIT-NOW) have surged by 20 percent since the price of cigarettes increased ahead of a new federal tax. With a $.62 per pack increase in the tax on cigarettes going into effect April 1, Quitline Iowa is braced for even more calls. The sudden increase in calls is one of the most significant spikes since the Quitline began offering free nicotine patches and gum in addition to counseling by trained quit coaches in January 2008.

"With most smokers seeing the price of their favorite brands increase to more than $5.00 per pack, the decision to quit for good is becoming more attractive, especially in these tough economic times," said Iowa Department of Public Health Director Tom Newton. "Quitline Iowa provides free counseling and products that greatly increase the likelihood for success in quitting tobacco use."

The increase in calls began in the third week of March, after three of the tobacco product manufacturers raised the price of popular brand cigarettes by $.72 per pack. Brands impacted by the early rise in price include Marlboro, Camel, and Newport among others.

The federal tax increase applies not only to cigarettes, but all tobacco products, such as smokeless and pipe tobacco. The tax will be used to fund an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), known in Iowa has hawk-i. Once the tax goes into effect, most one-pack-per-day smokers will pay nearly $2,000 each year to continue their addiction. Health care expenses due to smoking already cost Iowans an estimated $1 billion per year.

Adult tobacco users who are ready to quit can call Quitline Iowa at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for two weeks of free nicotine gum, patches, or lozenges. Callers who also take advantage of working with a free personal quit coach will double their chances of quitting successfully.

Iowa Department of Public Health

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