MADISON, Wis. - Are you ready to kick the habit?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 19-percent of adults in the United States are smokers and chances are most of them have tried to quit at least once.
For those looking to quit smoking this New Year, there's a way you can do it absolutely free – no cost for medications, counseling, and health assessments. It's all possible because of a major grant to the University of Wisconsin from the National Institutes of Health and it's a program with a proven track record.
Ten years ago, Portage resident David Dells was a pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker. At the same time, Dell had a heart attack that changed his life. But it had little effect on his bad habits.
"I really honestly think, even after a heart attack, after I got out of the hospital, I would have still lit of a cigarette," Dell said. "It's a very, very hard addiction."
What finally got Dell to quit was a program led by UW-Madison researcher Dr. Michael Fiore. In 2005, he and his team from the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention received an $8 million grant to help smokers, like Dell, quit and follow their progress.
"The NIH has now given us $10 million more to follow them for another five years for those who have relapsed to smoking, to offer them new treatment," Fiore said.
Dr. Fiore and his team are also adding roughly 800 new people to the study so more people can kick the habit.
Dr. Fiore said the $10 million goes a long, long way.
"What we know is that for every dollar we spend on helping people quit, within three years, we get $2 to $3 return on investment," Dr. Fiore said. He says in Wisconsin alone, more than three-quarters of a billion dollars is spent every single year to treat smoking-related diseases.
Dell is a believer and he's proud to call himself smoke-free for the last decade. He says his life would be a lot different otherwise.
"The program -- if I wouldn't have joined it, would I be here right now? I don't know," Dell said. "But I bet you I'd still be smoking."
Dr. Fiore said if you've been looking to quit, now is the perfect time to do so. Click here for more information on how to join the smoking study.
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