This is no time to quit on QUITPLAN

Dr. J. Taylor Hays

Hope is the key to helping patients beat nicotine dependence

As physicians, we’re taught to recognize symptoms. In medical school, we learn to identify them, and use them for evaluating a patient’s condition.

There’s one symptom I can always spot: Hope.

Through my work as medical director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center, I see signs of hope every day — when people tell me how long it’s been since their last cigarette, how they’re breathing easier and have more energy, how they can now get through the workday without thinking about a smoke. Their eyes light up when they talk about spending quality time with their children or grandchildren, exercising for the first time in years or just plain feeling better. It’s the best part of my job.

All Minnesota tobacco users deserve access to free help quitting. Currently, they do have access. QUITPLAN Services is a program run by the nonprofit ClearWay Minnesota. It provides cessation counseling, medications and other quitting tools to any Minnesotan who needs help, regardless of insurance status. Hundreds of thousands of hopeful quitters use the program for information and support every year.


But the long-term outlook of quitting resources in our state isn’t entirely hopeful. QUITPLAN Services is a life-limited program that will be ending in less than two years. An ongoing cessation resource is an urgent need. Nearly 600,000 adult Minnesotans still smoke, and tobacco costs more than 6,300 lives annually, as well as $7 billion in excess health care and lost worker productivity. Minnesota needs to find a sustainable solution to this problem. Fast.

Fortunately, a bipartisan group of state legislators is standing up for those who need quitting help, led in part by Sen. Carla Nelson. This year, leaders from both chambers included funding for a statewide cessation program in their supplemental budgets.

I envision a hopeful future. I see it when former smokers realize they’re adding years to their lives, and I see it now, as lawmakers consider this lifesaving legislation. But in politics, there are no guarantees, and that’s why I invite others to join me in urging legislators to sustainably fund tobacco cessation, a vitally important service.

The hopes of Minnesota smokers surely depend on it.

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