UC Quits reaches milestone of 2,500 patients

KATE SNOWDON / AGGIE
KATE SNOWDON / AGGIE

UC-wide anti-smoking campaign extends to five UC medical centers.

In 2013, Dr. Elisa Tong, an assistant professor at the UC Davis Medical Center, created UC Quits, a program to combat the ongoing battle against tobacco within the UC Health System. What started as a pilot program in 2013 through the UC Davis Medical Center, UC Quits has grown to include five UC medical centers and has reached almost 2,500 patients struggling with tobacco and nicotine addiction.

UC Quits serves patients at each of the five UC medical centers. The program is designed to prompt frequent smokers to quit at a time when they are typically more open to the idea, such as when they are in the hospital or at the doctor’s office. According to Tong, patients will benefit by being offered assistance that is more systematic. Medications and counseling strongly increase an individual’s ability to quit; however, it often takes multiple tries, according to Tong.

“For example, when a smoker is admitted to the hospital, they may be offered [a] nicotine patch and gum to relieve or prevent withdrawal and cravings,” Tong said. “At discharge, they can be referred to the California Smokers’ Helpline, [which] offers free telephone counseling and support to stay smoke-free.”

Funded by the UC Center for Health Quality and Innovation, UC Quits is an initiative designed to improve the manner in which UC healthcare providers address patients struggling with tobacco use, addiction and exposure. The program is a tobacco cessation network that spans across five UC medical centers — UC Davis, UC San Francisco, UC Los Angeles, UC Irvine and UC San Diego, as well as the California Smokers’ Helpline at UCSD and the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at UCSF.

According to Tong, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable illness in the United States. While tobacco products have significant harmful effects on those who use them, Tong said the long-term benefits of quitting are also significant. As of now, UC Quits has helped almost 2,500 smokers utilize the California Smokers’ Helpline for counseling and other guidance for quitting.

According to Keavagh Clift, a health promotion specialist at UC Davis, the percentage of UC Davis undergraduate students that have reported smoking a cigarette in the last 30 days has decreased from 7.5 percent in 2013 to 5.7 percent in 2015 as demonstrated through the 2015 UC Davis American College Health Association National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA II).

“The 2015 data shows a positive trend with regard to a decrease in smoking rates,” Clift said. “Though encouraging, it is difficult to determine whether the ACHA Assessment decline in use is attributable to the policy as there was also a national decline in smoking rates of students entering into college during this same timeframe.”

In 2013, the UC Davis Medical Center established the first two-way referral service with the California Smokers’ Helpline. This is the signature difference between UC Quits and other programs designed to provide guidance to those seeking to quit smoking. The service enables medical providers to ensure that patients at some point interact with the California Smokers’ Helpline (1-800-NO-BUTTS) rather than relying on patients to make the call on their own time.

“Instead of asking a patient to call, now a provider can tell a patient they will receive a call,” Tong said. “Furthermore, the provider will get a results message back from the helpline if the patient did accept counseling and educational materials.”

The UC Davis campus became smoke and tobacco free in January 2014. Smoking and use of other tobacco products are banned both indoors and outdoors in all areas of campus, including parking lots.

“In January 2012, President Mark Yudof announced to all chancellors that the University of California would be smoke and tobacco free by January 2014,” said Julia Ann Easley, senior public information representative at News and Media Relations for UC Davis. “The systemwide initiative and policy change applied to all UC campuses and medical centers.”

According to Tong, the five UC medical centers went smoke-free before the 2014 UC-wide ban and the UC Quits program continues to fortify the policy through its growing success since its creation in 2013.

“UC Quits supports the smoke-free policy by creating more provider electronic medical record tools in helping patients not having to smoke during their hospital stay, which also has immediate health benefits, and offering assistance in quitting,” Tong said.

For more information regarding UC Quits, visit ucquits.com.

Written by: LAURA FITZGERALD – campus@theaggie.org