Tomorrow marks the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, a national day of smoking cessation awareness. Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than 5 million deaths per year, and current trends show that tobacco use will cause more than 8 million deaths annually by 2030. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 65% of smokers want to quit, they are just unsuccessful. On October 7th, The Community Health Center’s Weitzman Quality Institute (WQI) launched the Rewards to quit research study which is being conducted by the Connecticut Department of Social Services. This study offers a 50% chance for all qualified enrollees to earn up to $350 while receiving free smoking cessation services, a new alternative to tackle this ongoing battle with cigarette addiction.

Each year, on the third Thursday of November, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. The Community Health Center, Inc. (CHC) takes pride in putting an emphasis on smoking cessation to patients; whether it is individual or group behavioral health services, the support is always there. The Rewards to Quit research study is being implemented through a grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. A majority of community health centers in the state are also participating and Yale will be contributing after the five year program window to analyze the study’s results.

The Community Health Center, Inc. is offering the Rewards to Quit program for two years and will be set up within all of CHC’s 13 sites by January, 2014. So far, the WQI research team has enrolled over 200 eligible smokers interested in getting help to quit at our Meriden, New Britain, Middletown and Waterbury locations since October 7th. In order for people to enroll, they must be a patient of CHC, over 18 years of age, smoked within the past 30 days of signing up and have active Medicaid insurance.

Once established in the program, the participants are randomized and notified which of the two groups they have been placed in. One in which participants can receive up to $350 by successfully engaging in the services offered or the control group that is only offered free services. Participants that are not in the control group can only be compensated for completing scheduled counseling services and passing carbon monoxide breathalyzer tests. All participants are guaranteed access to one-on-one and/or group counseling, medicines to help you quit and 24-hour phone service for counseling and information on quitting.

The lead research assistant for this project, Carlee Clarino, has been heavily involved with recruiting patients in CHC’s waiting rooms. “The patients that sign up for this program are fed-up with smoking; they have health concerns, money concerns, and are simply disgusted with cigarettes.  They need extra help and are very happy to get it.  The chance of also receiving financial incentives doesn’t matter so much because they just want to quit”, stated Clarino, responding to the question of how people have been reacting to this new program.

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