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Hundreds register to quit smoking amid COVID-19 spread

The CDC says people who smoke are at higher risk for severe illness if infected with coronavirus.

MINNEAPOLIS — For the hundreds of thousands of smokers across Minnesota, the state health department is stepping in and switching things up to help break old habits and ultimately save lives. 

Across the state, nearly 600,000 people smoke cigarettes, vape and chew tobacco.

"ClearWay Minnesota ran a statewide quit line for us for the last 10 years but they’re sunsetting so the legislature authorized the Minnesota Department of Health to launch this new program," said Laura Oliven, the state's Tobacco Control Program Manager. 

It's called Quit Partner and since the program's launch last week, leaders say more than 500 people have registered to quit.

Enrollees get one-on-one coaching, and what makes the program unique is you never have to leave your house.

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"We’ll mail you medications called NRTs, nicotine replacement therapies, with gum packs and a lozenge with instructions on how to use that, and we can provide texting and email services, so a live chat when you need it," said Oliven. 

It's no secret these are trying times we’re living in for so many and for some tobacco is used as a coping mechanism. 

"This is a time where people are feeling anxious, and depression," said Oliven. 

Even so, Oliven says it seems there’s been renewed interest in preserving lung health amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the CDC says people who smoke are at higher risk for severe illness if infected with the virus. 

"We don’t want people to be afraid but we want them to know that there are resources available to help them," said Oliven. 

KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and see what companies in Minnesota are hiring. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

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