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UC program aims to help more California smokers snuff their habit

Baba Health Tips

As New Year’s resolutions go, “Quit smoking” always ranks high on Americans’ lists. It’s also a stubbornly hard resolution to keep.

That’s why a program pioneered by a UC Davis doctor is ramping up efforts to get more smokers to take their last drag on a cigarette. Called UC Quits, it’s working to connect patients more quickly and seamlessly to a statewide smoking-cessation program.

Through his UC Davis Health System doctor, he got an e-referral to the California Smokers’ Helpline, which provides free telephone counseling and other support to Californians trying to quit.

Launched in 2013 by Dr. Elisa Tong, a UC Davis associate professor of medicine, the UC Quits e-referral program is designed to easily enable doctors in any clinical setting – a routine office visit or a hospitalization – to connect patients via their electronic medical records with the Smokers’ Helpline. With the patient’s permission, doctors can electronically send the smoker’s phone contacts to the helpline, which will contact the patient within two days. It’s a reversal of the typical scenario, Tong said, where a doctor might suggest a patient make that initial call themselves.

When a craving for a smoke comes on, new coping strategies are needed, said Anderson. “More than likely, it will pass in 10 minutes,” he said. “Drink water. Keep yourself busy. It will come and go and, in most cases, it will pass. It’s not going to get worse.”

Instead of reaching for that cigarette, smokers often need to find substitutes, such as toothpicks, candy or sunflower seeds to keep hands and mouth busy. Some keep a pack of cards handy to shuffle to occupy their hands. Spending time in movie theaters, malls or public settings where smoking is not allowed can be helpful.

Halcomb, for instance, said his hardest time is when he’s around other smokers, particularly at family parties. “You just have to say ‘I’m trying to quit smoking. Hope you don’t mind if I step away.’

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