Many smokers think of quitting, but not adequately motivated or not knowing how to begin, they fail at the attempts and suffer the ill consequences. However, with the help of Taiwan Smokers’ Helpline (TSH), commissioned by Health Promotion Administration, the 6-month point abstinence rate can be as high as 40.4%. This is a clear indication that smokers seeking out professional help such as quitline service have a significantly better chance of stopping smoking. Therefore, Health Promotion Administration encourages smokers making the use of the helpline with the slogan: “Rock Beats Scissors”—using the image of the hand game to suggest that the hand, instead of holding a cigarette (in the form of the “scissors”) between the forefinger and the middle finger, should be clenched into a fist (in the form of the “rock”) to hold the receiver of a phone to call the helpline.
Smoking is extremely hazardous to health—it causes over 20 thousand deaths annually in Taiwan, which translates into one death every twenty minutes. While quitting smoking can effectively reduce the risk of developing diseases and deaths caused by smoking, the success rate is usually lower than 5% if the smoker tries to quit with willpower alone. Taiwan Smokers’ Helpline (0800-63-63-63) of Health Promotion Administration is the first quiline in Asia providing smoking cessation telephone counseling to help smokers’ develop their individual quit plans. TSH is staffed with specialists in smoke-cessation counseling. For nearly 15 years, their service has offered more than 1.109 million telephone counseling sessions and helped over 140 thousand smokers to set a quit day and carry out individual quit plan, among whom 56 thousand have managed to quit. The success rate is nearly 8 times than that of those who trying to quit with willpower alone. This has had the immediate effect of reducing the public healthcare expenditure by over 306 million New Taiwan dollars (TWD) and the ongoing effect of generating 23 billion and 520 million TWD’s worth of social benefits.
User-Friendly Service That Increases Odds of First-Attempt Success
With great expertise and 15 years of experiences, the counselors at the quitline tailor telephone counseling sessions to each smoker’s needs and challenges. The service is accessible and toll-free. After the first telephone counseling session, one may expect follow-up calls from the quitline counselors for further support and discussion. Among the many examples of those who have succeeded in quitting are Mr. Chen, a smoker of 20 years, and Mr. Liu, who decided to quit smoking for his pregnant wife and unborn baby 5 years ago. Having no experience in quitting, they sought assistance through the helpline and managed to quit smoking on their first attempt.
According to Mr. Liu, although the withdrawal symptoms were hard to bear, the support and guidance given to him by the counselors through the helpline enabled him to cope with the physical discomfort and anxiety during the process. He said with a touch of pride, “Now I don’t have to be worried that my child would be bothered by the odor of cigarette smoke on my clothes.” Similarly, Mr. Chen is happy to enjoy a better time with his family and friends. “On camping trips, I can engage in delightful conversations with my companions without taking breaks from them just to have a drag.” As the helpline can significantly increase the odds of first-attempt success, Health Promotion Administration encourages those who are still hesitant to give it a try.
The Helpline as a Smoking Cessation Coach That Makes Quitting Easier
Mark Twain is believed to have said, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” Having been dedicated to smoking cessation treatment for many years, Dr. Hsein-Lin Wu of Taiwan Adventist Hospital points out, “In smoking cessation, willpower alone is simply not enough. One also needs to adopt effective strategies.” Those who make an effort to quit know best the physical and psychological hardship that they are going through. Being aware of this, the staff at the helpline not only uses counseling-related knowledge and skills but also shows great empathy for those who seek help. The helpline counselors would be very understanding and supportive during smoking cessation and refer one to medical resources such as clinics or pharmacies if need be, so as to minimize the agonizing withdrawal symptoms. In this regard, the helpline serves as a smoking cessation coach that helps one overcome various obstacles along the way. Ms. Jhou and Ms. Fang, who managed to quit 2 and 5 years ago respectively, are both appreciative of the critical role the helpline played during smoking cessation. The helpline counselors supported them, empowered them, clarified their misconceptions about smoking cessation, and discussed approaches and strategies with them. All these readied them for dealing with the withdrawal symptoms and for the courage to give it another try, and eventually restored them to good health. Mr. Gu, who managed to quit smoking 8 years ago, also attributes his success to the supportive text messages sent by the helpline service. “The messages sustained my perseverance and determination, especially at moments when I almost slipped up and smoked.” It is clear that the constant support of the helpline counselors is the major factor that enables those who want to quit smoking to overcome their cravings for cigarettes, in some cases, even after years of addiction.
Taiwan Smokers’ Helpline is open from 9am to 9pm Monday through Saturday. Through the toll-free number 0800-636363, the quitline helps smokers draw up a smoking cessation plan that best suits them. The one-on-one telephone counseling is convenient, private, and free of charge. Follow-up calls and supportive messages are also available to help smokers get through the cessation process. Using the helpline is a sure way to increase the odds of success in quitting smoking. By the end of June, smokers who call the helpline and complete the first session of the smoking cessation counseling may get a lucky grab bag as a gift. There are only a limited number of lucky grab bags, so it is better to call sooner rather than later!
Smoking Cessation Resources:
lTaiwan Smokers’ Helpline: 0800-636363
lMore than 3,800 medical institutions that provide smoking cessation services (For further details, call 02-2351-0120 or visit http://ttc.hpa.gov.tw/quit/)
lDistrict public health bureaus or centers, which offer consultation, service, and pamphlets about smoking cessation