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MDPH: Earn gift cards for trying to quit menthol tobacco use

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Smoking and vaping may put people at higher risk of complications from COVID-19, especially because they can weaken the immune system and damage the lungs. So, this is an especially good time for those who smoke or vape to improve their lung health by trying to quit.

In addition, as a result of a new law, menthol tobacco products have been removed from regular stores in Massachusetts, an effort designed to counter tobacco industry targeting of youth, communities of color and LGBTQ+ people. With menthol tobacco products unavailable and COVID-19 risks continuing, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has found a new way to help people quit. The Massachusetts Smokers’ Helpline is now offering up to three gift cards totaling $50 to people who use menthol tobacco products and the Helpline’s free coaching services. Residents can call the Massachusetts Smokers’ Helpline at 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) about the program and for free coaching and support 24 hours each day, seven days a week. They can also enroll online and access quit planning tools, peer support and motivational text messages at makesmokinghistory.org.

According to Seven Hills Behavioral Health, helping people who use menthol products quit is especially important “because the tobacco industry has strategically and successfully targeted Black, Latinx and LGBTQ+ people with menthol products. As a result of aggressive marketing practices and pressures related to discrimination and daily stressors, menthol tobacco use is high in these communities.”

Massachusetts residents who use menthol tobacco products who speak with the Helpline’s trained and supportive coaches can receive a $10 gift card after completing the first coaching call, a $15 gift card after the second coaching call and a $25 gift card after the third coaching call. In addition, up to 8 weeks of FREE nicotine patches, gum or lozenges are also available to residents who speak with a coach (with medical eligibility).

Evelyn Rodriquez, former menthol smoker and cancer survivor from Lawrence, says it was very difficult for her to quit. She was supported by the Massachusetts Smokers’ Helpline with coaching and resources. She suggests, “It’s extremely difficult to reach out to someone you don’t know and say, listen, I’m stuck in this situation and I don’t know how to get out of it. Sometimes you’re gonna want to pick up that cigarette…that’s when you need to pick up the phone.”

While supplies last, the offer of gift cards can motivate people who use menthol tobacco products to call the Helpline. And with coaching and quit medications like the patch gum or lozenge, people can be twice as likely to quit for good compared to those who try to quit on their own. Family and friends of those who use tobacco products can call the Helpline for advice on supporting quit attempts, too.

Quitting smoking or vaping improves one’s health right away; lungs start to heal and the body starts to repair its ability to fight infection. For more information contact Morissa Vital at the Southeast Tobacco-Free Community Partnership at 774-634-3955 or mvital@sevenhills.org.

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