Colorado's QuitLine sees huge uptick, forced to reduce services due to lack of funding

Huge uptick in enrollment to blame
Posted at 6:06 PM, Jun 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-05 21:33:11-04

LITTLETON, Colo. -- The commercials for Colorado's tobacco QuitLine are everywhere, touting free personalized coaching and free nicotine patches or gum to help anybody trying to kick tobacco.

"I think everybody knows about it. There are billboards, it's on bus signs, it's on TV," said smoker Louise Smith.

For Smith, the ads worked. She called the QuitLine for help kicking her life-long habit two weeks ago and said they told her she had to wait for personalized coaching services.

"I was surprised to hear that they had run out of funding and couldn't help me until the first of July," she said. "The coaching would have made all the difference in the world. Quitting is not going well at all. It's very difficult."

"We're not turning people away. We're just having to modify services," said Michelle Lynch, a state tobacco cessation supervisor who oversees the QuitLine.

The QuitLine is a funded through state cigarette taxes and operates on a fixed budget.

Lynch said the ads running all over television are working and for more than just Smith.

"We've had an unprecedented amount of uptick this year," she explained.

She said the QuitLine had seen a 16 percent increase in enrollment this year alone.

Due to that growth and then, add in the expensive quitting drug Chantix.

"We were able to serve over three thousand Coloradans this year with that medication," she said. "We did have to turn that off in March to sustain, based on our fixed budget."

Lynch said they went through their funding faster than expected and have had to reduce services for people that don't qualify until their new fiscal year starts in July.

"All people calling in can receive some services through the phone or through the web," she explained.

For now, Smith is using any distraction she can to quit her smoking habit, and anxiously waiting for the help she hopes the QuitLine can bring come July.

"I'll get out in the garden. I'll play with the chickens," she said. "Move forward, and I will quit smoking in July."