HAWAII AT WORK
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jennifer Duarte is the lead quit coach for the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline, which is a free service for people who want to quit the smoking habit. Above, Duarte holds "Call It Quits" pamphlets available from the service, which is operated in Hawaii by Free & Clear Inc., of Seattle.
This job is smokin’!
Jennifer Duarte advises people from experience that it's a good thing to quit tobacco
Title: Lead quit coach
Job: Counsels callers to the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline and supervises other quit coaches
Jennifer Duarte speaks from experience when she tells callers to the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline how to give up smoking cigarettes. She gave up smoking herself just a few years ago, after developing breathing problems. Now she works for Free & Clear Inc.
, a Seattle-based company that opened in Hawaii a year ago under the auspices of the state Department of Health and the Hawaii Community Foundation. Duarte is lead quit coach at the local office, which fields an average of 1,500 calls a month. She also supervises the other quit coaches on staff. Duarte, 25, is a graduate of Thunderbird High School in Phoenix, and has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Arizona State University, in Tempe. She is single and lives in the Kaheka area.
Question: How long have you been working for Free & Clear?
Answer: For Free & Clear, I've been working there for two years now. Actually, November is my anniversary. I started working for them in Seattle, and I was a quit coach, originally.
Q: What's a quit coach?
A: We're the ones that actually talk to the participants, and we answer the calls.
Q: How long have you been working for the company in Hawaii, and why were you transferred here?
A: Well, basically, what happens in Seattle is we work with all the different quit lines -- we have about, I believe, 18 different states. So we opened up the Hawaii quit line, and what happened was, they wanted residents to be working with the Hawaii quit line, so they hired all new people to work the Hawaii quit line -- residents -- and they brought me here to coach and help everybody do their job.
Q: How many people do you work with in the Hawaii office of Free & Clear?
A: In the Hawaii office, there's about 10 quit coaches; in the Seattle office, I believe, altogether for quit coaches, I believe that we have about 150. So we are a small group of the larger collective.
Q: Was hiring locally required under the funding?
A: We work with clients, and the clients had requested that they wanted an office here with employees that weren't from Seattle, that would be able to relate to the culture and be able to talk to people, because when you're on the phone, you want to be able to make that connection to help. You want to be on the level of being like a friend that's giving them advice.
Q: And who's the client?
A: Our client is the Hawaii Community Foundation, in partnership with the state Department of Health.
Q: And they get funding from the tobacco fund or something?
A: The (1998) tobacco settlement fund.
Q: What's your typical day at work like?
A: Well, I usually work more the evening shift, so I come in around 12:30 in the afternoon, and I receive calls, so typically I talk to a lot of residents in Hawaii, as well as nationally.
Q: How so nationally?
A: Because I can receive calls from any of the other states, as well as from about 50 different commercial contracts, private insurance.
Q: What's that about?
A: An employer or a company can say that they want the Free & Clear program as part of their benefits package, so if an employer is going smoke-free, then we do have a lot of people that call in, or, you know, just smokers that want to quit.
Q: So they get your number in Hawaii?
A: Right, exactly, because with the technology, we have a lot of our staff that work from home in Seattle, and we have a lot people that work in the office in Seattle, and then we have a satellite office here in Hawaii. My first priority is to take care of the Hawaii residents that are calling in, but I also serve our national clients as well.
I even talk to some people internationally as well. I'm helping a man right now from Tokyo, Japan, and I'm helping a man in Australia.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jennifer Duarte, lead quit coach at the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline, was a longtime smoker herself, so she knows what it's like to give up the habit. Above, Duarte fields a phone call from her desk in the Quitline call center in Restaurant Row.
What kind of people call you?
A: I would say that we have a wide range of people that call in -- people with lower incomes, the uninsured, people on Medicaid or disability, but then also, with some of our more commercial contracts, you can have more people that are work-related, more corporate, that are calling in more for their work or job, that sort of thing.
Q: How do they find out about you?
A: Well, I guess there's TV commercials, so you could see an ad on TV that says "Call 1-800-QUITNOW," and receive free patches for the uninsured, or you could see a flyer at your doctor's office.
Q: Where did you get the expertise to tell people about how to quit smoking?
A: Well, I have my degree in psychology and I have a minor in anthropology, and I came into this company and they did extensive training.
Q: In a nutshell, what do you advise people who want to quit smoking?
A: We definitely advise to set a quit date; that would be the first step. And to really be ready, and to decide that this is what they want to do.
I think that deciding that you're ready and you want to quit is the first step. It's the most important step. Setting a quit date has been shown to make people more successful at quitting.
And then plan how you're going to be able to fight the cravings.
Q: And how do they do that?
A: I think you really have to start looking at what your triggers are, whether it be stress, first thing in the morning, some of the habits and routines, or maybe more of the physical part of it
Q: Which would be like what?
A: Some people smoking two packs a day maybe would have a harder time quitting than somebody smoking five cigarettes a day.
So really, all three sides of the addiction need to be addressed. And that would be the physical part of it, the habitual part, as well as the emotional part.
Q: What is emotional part?
A: That would be the things like the stress -- smoking because you're stressed out, smoking because you're bored.
Q: In terms of the habit?
A: That would be things like first in the morning, after meals, when you get in the car ...
Q: So what do you suggest people do as a substitute to keep their mind off smoking, or from wanting to hold a cigarette or inhale a drag of smoke?
A: What we do at the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline, we help you to access some medications to help with the physical part of trying to quit, and then coaches do the counseling to help you think of different things to do with your hands, such as maybe a stress ball, or maybe having a straw between your fingers, or chewing gum.
Also, we help you explore different things you can do to relieve your stress, such as maybe an exercise program, or maybe finding some support with family or friends.
Q: How long do these counseling relationships last?
A: From the first phone call that we do, it's quite extensive. We spend 30 minutes doing an assessment with the participant, and helping them plan their quit process, coming up with a specialized quit plan. And then we have subsequent phone calls, so we call them for their quit date phone call, a quit date follow-up phone call, and then two to three ongoing phone calls.
Q: Were you ever a smoker?
A: Yes, I was.
Q: For how long?
A: I was a smoker from when I was very young. So I would say maybe for about 10 years. I started when I was like 11.
Q: Why did you quit?
A: I quit because I was smoking more than a pack of cigarettes a day, and I felt the addiction was just taking me over. I was smoking more and more, and I couldn't just get enough. I was developing bronchitis, and chronic bronchitis, and now I have asthma as a result. I never had asthma as a child.
Q: Do you think that there could be any benefits to tobacco use or smoking?
A: I would say the benefits of smoking really have nothing to do with your health, as far as I'm concerned. It's more culturally or socially. You can meet people, bond with people, you can ask someone for a cigarette or strike up a conversation because of smoking.
Socially there are benefits, but the detriments to your health really outweigh any health benefits that I can see.
Q: Sounds good to me.
A: By the way, would it be possible for you to mention that November 16th is the "Great American Smokeout?"
Q: I suppose I could do that.
A: That's also the first day that the new law is going into effect as well.
Q: What law?
A: The smoke-free Hawaii law.
Q: And what does that command?
A: Smoking will be banned from all public places of business and employment, including bars and restaurants.
Q: Do you expect that to generate more calls?
A: Oh yes.
A: I think that sometimes we do have some resistance, so people call in because they're frustrated about the law, but at the same time, this is a reason for them to quit. Sometimes you need the extra push to help you make the decision.