MONTPELIER -- The state wants to help 93,000 smokers kick the habit by helping them pay for nicotine replacement therapy.
So the attorney general's office is going to spend $100,000 to make the co-payments for smokers whose insurance covers nicotine therapy and pay 40 percent of the cost for people whose insurance doesn't cover the gum or patches used to help people quit smoking.
The program will last until the money is used up, Attorney General William Sorrell said yesterday.
"If you want to quit, now is the time," Sorrell said at a Montpelier news conference with Health Commissioner Dr. Paul Jarris.
Most smokers want to quit. The extra money is another incentive.
"We just want to give them a push," Jarris said.
There are an estimated 93,000 Vermonters who smoke and about 50,000 of them would like to quit. But only one smoker in 20 is able to quit without assistance, Sorrell said.
Using a combination of counseling and nicotine replacement therapy increases the success rate to one in five.
Jarris said nicotine in cigarettes is one of the most addictive substances. "It takes an average of five to seven attempts to quit successfully. Nicotine replacement can help a smoker quit for good," Jarris said.
People interested in taking advantage of the program can call the Vermont Quit Line at 1-877-YES-QUIT (1-877-937-7848) or call the smoking cessation coordinator at a local hospital.
This week, all Vermont households will receive a post card explaining the program and how to register for the free or reduced price nicotine patches or gum.
Programs to quit smoking typically last four to eight weeks. A typical two-week supply of patches or nicotine gum costs $40 to $50. At that price, the program could help about 2,500 people quit, Sorrell said.
Nicotine replacement therapy is already covered for people in the state programs such as Medicaid or the Vermont Health Access Plan.
The $100,000 for the program came from state settlements of lawsuits or fines with businesses that violated tobacco laws or regulations, Sorrell said.