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A Tobacco Cessation Program that Works

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Reviewed by: Thomas Ylioja, MSW, PhD, tobacco cessation expert and clinical director of Health Initiatives Programs, National Jewish Health
January 5, 2022

Man celebratingQuitting tobacco products can be incredibly difficult without the right help, but for 20 years, one National Jewish Health program has helped more than 2 million people with their quit attempts.

“Everybody who smokes knows that they should quit, that smoking is not good for them,” said Thomas Ylioja, MSW, PhD, clinical director for Health Initiatives and tobacco cessation services at National Jewish Health. “More than half of the 34 million Americans who smoke try to quit every year, but only about 7% are successful, and that’s because they aren’t using treatments that are known to work.”

“People who make quit attempts through our program with its proven techniques see a much higher success rate. Approximately 37% of our participants quit tobacco products for good,” added Dr. Ylioja. The National Jewish Health program has one of the highest quit rates in the country.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment first contracted with National Jewish Health for the Colorado QuitLine™ in 2002. Since then, the National Jewish Health program has become one of the largest providers of phone-based and digital tobacco cessation services in the U.S., operating 23 state quit lines.


“More than half of the 34 million Americans who smoke try to quit every year, but only about 7% are successful, and that's because they aren’t using treatments that are known to work.”

Thomas Ylioja, MSW, PhD, clinical director for Health Initiatives

Quitting Is Not One-Size Fits All

In addition to the general population of tobacco users, National Jewish Health offers programs tailored for specific populations that have high rates of tobacco use, including American Indians; Black and Latino communities; LGBTQ communities; pregnant and postpartum tobacco users; menthol users; people with behavioral health conditions; and teens and others who vape.

"We know that not every group has the same smoking rate, and over time, smoking has become more concentrated in groups with other risk factors," said Dr. Ylioja. "So we have tailored our program to address the specific needs of those groups. It's not a one-size-fits-all approach for tobacco cessation."

In 2014, the program began helping people quit vaping and in 2019, National Jewish Health launched the My Life My Quit program focused on younger people who vape.

"We found that youth didn't see our Quitline as being a service for them,” said Dr. Ylioja. Many thought the program was only for adult cigarette smokers, not for younger people  and not for those who vape.

My Life My Quit was uniquely designed for teens. It offers the same live coaching via text that the adult program offers over the phone. Other programs only provide young people with canned text messaging delivered by an automated service. Our coaching texts are individualized for each participant.


How it Works

Each year, National Jewish Health coaches more than 100,000 people through the quit process with phone calls, text messages and online interactions. The program is staffed by more than 100 customer care representatives and tobacco cessation coaches. Many of these staff members have successfully quit smoking and are devoted to helping others do the same.

Dr. Ylioja explained that the team of coaches are trained experts in tobacco cessation, not general health and wellness like other programs. Before taking calls, our Quitline coaches complete more than 120 hours of training in the program that is nationally accredited by the Council for Tobacco Treatment Training Programs. To stay at the top of their game, coaches complete 40 hours of continuing education every year.

For participants, signing up is simple through a brief registration and intake process. Each participant works with a coach for about four to six weeks. Coaching calls or texts are scheduled weekly or at least every two weeks. Approximately five coaching calls are made during the program and extra support is available if needed. In addition to the calls or texts, participants are sent educational and self-help guides that reinforce what they learn during coaching sessions. Participants can ask for and receive support via online chat, text messages or email.

Quit medications, such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) are available for eligible participants. National Jewish Health works with private insurance and state programs to match each person with the appropriate quit medication.

“We talk to participants about how to correctly use quit medications to increase their chances of quitting for good,” said Dr. Ylioja. “Even if we don't give them the medications, we still help them understand how to use them and answer their questions.”

Quitting tobacco is the most important change you can make to improve your health and reduce your risk of disease. More than an estimated 350,000 cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and more than 18,000 cases of lung cancer have been prevented by helping people quit tobacco products. Within minutes of quitting your body will start to heal itself from the damages of smoking.

Participating in a smoking cessation program works, even if you have tried before. Don’t give up.

If you need help quitting tobacco or vaping, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.