Nicotine patches assist Boynton’s smoking cease-fire

Sean Madigan

Smokers looking for an alternative to kicking the habit cold turkey can turn to the Boynton Health Service for free help.
Each Monday, students interested in quitting smoking can go to Boynton for a six-week supply of nicotine patches. Although the six-week treatment normally costs more than $250, the nicotine patches are being offered free of charge.
In December, McNeil Consumer Products donated more than 1.4 million nicotine patches — enough to treat 33,000 smokers — to the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco, a nonprofit organization established in the state’s tobacco settlement last May.
Knowing the patches would expire within a year, the pharmaceutical company donated them to the state organization for a tax write-off, said Chris Tholkes, an adviser to the nonprofit organization.
With a warehouse full of patches, the nonprofit organization contracted with Health Systems Minnesota to distribute the patches to more than 60 public and private organizations statewide, including Boynton. Fairview-University Medical Center also received shipments of patches, but have not started distribution.
To date, Hennepin County has distributed more than 300,000 patches.
Boynton received 25 cases of nicotine patches, enough to help approximately 300 smokers quit, and began distributing them at the beginning of May.
“We’re going to keep giving them away until they run out,” said Dave Golden, a Boynton spokesman.
Muhamed Avdagic, a smoker for the last two years, said he hopes Boynton’s supply lasts until the end of the quarter.
“I’m totally interested in quitting smoking,” said Avdagic, a junior in the Institute of Technology. “I’m just waiting until my final exams are over.”
Students like Avdagic who want to quit smoking are invited to attend a weekly 15-minute information session offered Mondays at Boynton. Cessation educators teach smokers about the procedures and risks of using nicotine patches.
After attending the session, smokers who wish to seek treatment are given prescriptions for the patches, redeemable in Boynton’s pharmacy.
Treatment packages contain 42 patches. Each patch has 15 milligrams of nicotine and should be changed daily. Yet educators warn that the patch will not work effectively for occasional smokers who smoke less than 10 cigarettes a day because the patch would actually increase their daily nicotine intake.
Although the treatment lasts six weeks, results are not guaranteed.
“When anybody makes an attempt at quitting, that’s great,” Golden said. But he added that definitive results will take time. Some smokers begin to use the patch as a crutch, lowering their carcinogen intake, but still remain addicted to nicotine.
Golden said prolonged use of the patch is better than smoking, but not a healthy permanent solution. Fowlett said approximately 10 to 20 percent of smokers who use the patch will quit for good.
“If you’re motivated, this will help,” said Chris Fowlett, a coordinator for Health System Minnesota. “But if you want to quit, you have to be ready to because the patch alone won’t make you quit.”