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Home : News : News
NEWS | Nov. 30, 2018

Freedom Quit Line offers cigarette smokers tools to kick their habit

By Daniel J. Calderón 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

TRICARE beneficiaries around the world who smoke cigarettes and want to quit now have another source to help them.


The 59th Medical Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, under at Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between the Air Force and the University of Virginia, is hosting the Freedom Quit Line – a telephone support service which will provide resources to help smokers give up their habit.


One of the signature aspects of the quit line is the use of “motivational interviewing” by the counselors.


“Motivational interviewing is a style of talking with people that is like ‘I’m going to go where you’re at and try to help you become motivated to quit,’” said Melissa Little, PhD., deputy director of the Center for Addiction and Research at UVA. “We try to figure out ‘What’s your why?’ Why did you call here? Why do you want to quit right now? Why did you pick up the phone today?’ We spend a lot of time nurturing that and trying to bring out motivation, that internal motivation. I think that’s probably why people are more successful with our quit line than with a standard one.”


Cigarette smokers can call the Freedom Quit Line at 1-844-I-AM-FREE (1-844-426-3733) to begin their treatment.


"The Freedom Quit Line is unique because it focuses on the personal needs of the individual rather than giving general educational information about quitting cigarettes,” said Annette Martinez, program coordinator. “This type of treatment is tailored to each individual's experiences and needs making it more beneficial to attain their goals.  The counselors are not only highly trained in motivational interviewing but they are knowledgeable of the military culture. Most of them are retired military, veterans or military dependents.  The participants also like the convenience of the program since they don't have to attend classes."


When individuals who are trying to quit smoking call in, they will go through standard intake questions. Once they are verified as qualified beneficiaries, the caller will receive a schedule for their first phone motivational interview call.


Throughout the process, counselors will provide four sessions to help smokers through the process of quitting. Smokers will also receive nicotine patches, gum, or both, as part of their treatment.


Following the sessions, counselors will call to check up three months after the sessions are complete, and again at the 12-month mark. During each of the follow-up calls, counselors ask if the smoker has relapsed and begun smoking again.


“If they say yes, they get randomized to one of three conditions,” Little explained. “The first one is basically ‘try, try again.’ We give them those same four sessions and interventions with the nicotine replacement therapy. The second one is more of a rate reduction. The idea is that ‘I’m going to move you down the road toward cessation. I’m not going to say that I’m going to set a quit date at session two. Instead, by session three, I want you to be substantially reducing your cigarettes so that you can set a quit date. And, you will be more successful when you do eventually quit.’”


In the third condition which is randomized for relapsed smokers, they get a choice of the first two options. They can choose whether to try the same treatment over again or they can choose the reductive method. In either case, the smoker does continue to receive the nicotine replacement therapy.


“I figure if I’d tried something and it wasn’t effective, I’m going to try something different,” Little said. “But actually a lot of people actually try the ‘try, try again’ option.”


So far, more than 500 individuals have called in to the Freedom Quit Line. Smokers can call in to through May 2019 to begin their treatment and the team is working to get the deadline extended.


The quit line team understands how cigarette smoking negatively affects overall readiness for active duty members, their families, and even retirees which is why the program is open to an array of recipients.


“It is open to all branches, and all Tricare beneficiaries, worldwide, with the exception of some locations,” said Karen LeRoy, research director for the UVA research team. “The qualification was the location they’re at had to have a military treatment facility in the area so that if there was a safety event, they could use their Tricare to go there.”


Although the program is open to beneficiaries at overseas locations, the limiting factor, according to LeRoy, is whether or not nicotine patches and gum are allowed to be mailed in to the country. If not, there is no way to properly treat the individual.


Anyone who is interested in the program can visit for information on eligible overseas locations and basic eligibility requirements.