Jun 16, 2022 Tobacco Recovery At Your Fingertips

man looking at his cell phone

A new service provides customized support.

You’re trying to quit smoking. You really want a cigarette. What do you do?

Pills, medications and patches can help a person overcome a nicotine addiction. But equally important is to have support from the people in your life—loved ones, colleagues, health care providers—and from trained counselors who understand just how challenging the journey can be.

The free Nicotine and Tobacco Recovery Program offered by the RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery (IFPR) employs a full range of tools to quit smoking, including counseling and support groups. Last summer, the program unveiled a new support option: a text-based service known as the Tobacco Recovery Concierge. The service offers real-time support via texting for moments when triggers or cravings are strong.

“In these cases, we can offer tips for a behavior change that they can make to help the craving subside, such as going for a walk, having a drink of water or doing breathing and relaxation exercises,” explains Monica Hanna, MPH, CHES, NCTTP, Assistant Director of the Nicotine and Tobacco Recovery Program.

“Research has shown that cessation counseling and support can double a person’s chances of success when quitting nicotine,” she says. “This new service allows us to tailor messages to patients for whatever they’re going through at the moment.”

Not Just A Habit

Powered by GoMo Health, the Tobacco Recovery Concierge provides regular motivational and educational messages based on where a person is in his or her quit journey. These scheduled messages might include a link to a website where people share their stories, or to a calculator for figuring out exactly how much a person will save by quitting nicotine.

For times when participants need immediate support, they can text one of a number of keywords such as “craving,” “mood,” “relax” or “meet.” Responses might include motivational messaging or a link to login information for IFPR Zoom meetings. A chat feature is also available through a HIPAA-secure portal.

The program, which began in July 2021, has served more than 200 people so far and gets about 30 new signups each month, Hanna says.

Quitting nicotine can be as hard as quitting heroin or cocaine, research shows. On average, people try to quit smoking five to seven times before they quit for good.

“Our goal is to break down the stigma of nicotine addiction. Even health care providers too often regard it as a bad habit,” Hanna says. “Instead, we approach it the same way we would treat a chronic disease such as diabetes or heart failure. We help patients deal with the physiological effects. And we know that when we combine that approach with counseling, a person’s chances of success are much greater. No one should feel like they have to make this journey alone.”

You Can Quit. We Can Help.

The Nicotine and Tobacco Recovery Program includes nicotine replacement therapies, recommendations on prescription smoking medication, and individual and group counseling. The program, funded by the New Jersey Department of Health Office of Tobacco Control, Nutrition and Fitness, is offered free of charge by the RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery in Essex, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Somerset and Union counties.

Learn more about the Nicotine and Tobacco Recovery Program, call 833-795-QUIT (7848) or email quitcenter@rwjbh.org.