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Stop-smoking program demand skyrockets

Demand for free nicotine patches and other stop-smoking aids skyrocketed in Idaho after the federal government hiked tobacco taxes by 62 cents this spring.

The run on stop-smoking aids drained that part of the program’s funding, said Emily Simnitt of the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. The free nicotine replacement therapies won’t be available to residents until the state’s new fiscal year begins July 1, she said.

She noted that other aspects of the program still are available, such as free telephone counseling via the state’s QuitLine (1-800-QUIT-NOW), support groups and fee-based classes.

Since the $700,000 Project Filter program was created last July, smokers have been able to request a four-week supply of nicotine patches, gum and lozenges. Requests for the free stop-smoking products reached 4,000 people in April, up from just over 500 in January, the department of health and welfare said in a press release.

Overall, the program has served about 1,300 people each month since it was created. But that number doubled in March, in advance of the April 1 federal tax increase on tobacco, and topped 6,300 in April.

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