HSE plans major drive to help people quit smoking

Gerry Collins shared his story of terminal lung cancer last year as part of the HSE's QUIT campaign. He is pictured with his wife  Delly and three children Stephen, Lisa and Ciara. However Gerry died  before the ads were aired but his family has now given the HSE permission to continue to run the TV ads in their efforts to broaden the QUIT campaign.
Thousands of smokers are planning to QUIT smoking and aiming to change their lives for the better as we begin a new year.

Thousands of smokers are planning to QUIT smoking and aiming to change their lives for the better as we begin a new year.

The HSE has launched a new QUIT personal support service to help those quitters – providing a team of trained advisors, interactive digital tools, empathy and support, and making them twice as likely to quit for good.

Dr. Stephanie O’Keeffe, National Director for Health and Wellbeing, said - “1 in every 2 smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease, and over 5000 families will lose a loved one this year due to tobacco. The number of smokers in Ireland has dropped once again in 2014, but we want to help even more smokers to quit. Our new QUIT service is built on our years of experience and the success we’ve had in supporting people to make that positive change in their own lives, and become tobacco-free.’

The QUIT team now provides support to quitters across a range of channels – over the phone, on Twitter and Facebook, and by SMS and email. Quitters can also use the brand new interactive QUIT.ie website, talking to the QUIT team via Live Chat, and using the online QUITplan. As well as the new online and phone based support there is a network of face-to face HSE QUIT services in many locations around the country, providing one-to-one and group support for smokers.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said ‘Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to improve your health and avoid chronic disease and premature death. The Government is here to help and polices such as advertising bans, the ban on smoking in work places, education campaigns, removing tobacco items from display and plain packaging all help to reduce the numbers of people who smoke. People trying to give up are not alone and those who use the HSE’s QUIT service are twice as likely to succeed as those who try to do it alone.’

Stephanie O’Keeffe added: ‘Our QUIT Team provides a free, fully-interactive support network for anyone who wants to give up smoking and make a positive change in their and their families’ lives. We are here to give you the support you need when you need it – whether that’s online, on your phone or by SMS. We are going to be with you every step of the way and I would encourage everyone who wants to QUIT to take that first step by signing up to QUIT.”

However a smoker chooses to access the service, the QUIT team offers evidence-based care through a standard treatment programme, where quitters will be tracked and supported for 12 months to help them quit and stay quit. The trained advisors will provide quitters with support, advice and the evidence-based quit programme, over the phone, via Twitter and Facebook, or by email and SMS.

Quitters are offered a 20 minute phone consultation, which can be scheduled for any convenient time, where their own smoking habits, triggers and reasons to QUIT are analysed. If the smoker is ready to Quit they set the date. The quit team schedule calls for the Quit date and once a week for the first 4 weeks. There are follow up calls at 3 months and 12 months Quitters can call, text or use Facebook to contact the Quit Team between scheduled calls to get support when and how they need it, and will usually speak to the same advisor throughout the process.

The QUIT.ie website has been completely redesigned and updated to match the new QUIT support service. The site is mobile and tablet friendly, and for users who prefer to QUIT without one-to-one support, offers an independent QUITplan, with daily email and SMS support, and an option to Live Chat with an advisor if needed. Quitters can log in at any time to check on their progress, how much money they’ve saved, how far they’ve come and find answers to common questions.

The QUIT team are also contactable on Twitter @hseQuitTeam and on the You can QUIT Facebook page, which is now approaching 100,000 likes and has become a daily hub for current and former quitters, helping and supporting each other along the way. For 2015, the new QUIT Heroes app on our Facebook page encourages people to share their quit story and what worked for them, in order to help other quitters toward success and every month there will be a small reward to the QUIT Heroes who provide the greatest support to fellow Quitters.

Quitters can also order a QUIT kit on quit.ie which includes the QUIT booklet guide to quitting, a money box for saving the cash not spent on cigarettes, a wristband and pencil, a wallet card and post-it pack.

All QUIT services are provided free of charge by the HSE

Dr. Stephanie O’Keeffe outlined how the HSE will promote the new QUIT service: ‘On this day last year, our QUIT campaign launched its powerful advertising featuring Gerry Collins from Greystones in Co. Wicklow, who died earlier this year from lung cancer caused by smoking. Gerry’s trio of unique adverts have prompted a remarkable response from smokers trying to quit since they first aired in January 2014, and his family have generously committed to allowing the HSE to continue to use these adverts to lead the QUIT campaign.’

‘We will continue to show Gerry’s ads – giving people a chance to reflect on why they should quit. From now on, they’ll be matched by a call to contact the new QUIT support service – helping smokers know how to quit. We aim to add to the fantastic total of over 500,000 quit attempts prompted by our campaign since 2011. We want to continue to reduce the number of smokers, preventable deaths and many thousands of disabilities caused by tobacco that devastate families across the nation each year’.