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Phila. Health Commissioner Announces New Incentives For Smokers Trying To Quit

By Hadas Kuznits

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- For some smokers today, it's the first day of the rest of their lives without

Today marked the 37th annual "Great American Smokeout."  It's a day when those who smoke make the committment to quit for at least one day.

Philadelphia health commissioner Dr. Donald Schwartz (at lectern in photo) says that here in Philadelphia, the number of smokers is staggering, adding that quitting can have a huge impact on a smoker's health and wallet.

"Philadelphia has, of the ten largest cities in the country, the highest rate of smoking.  The biggest impact of that is on the health of Philadelphians and health care costs.  We expect we have more than 300,000 smokers in Philadelphia.  It's a huge number.  That means that premature mortality, early death in Philadelphia, increased rates of cancer are high, heart disease, teeth and dental problems," Schwartz said today at a press conference at the Restaurant School.

But, he says, there is an upside to these statistics. While Philadelphia's smoking rate is higher than the national average, the city has managed to cut smoking by nearly 15 percent since 2008.

"There are a number of reasons for that, beginning with our Clean Indoor Air Worker Protection Law, which was the child of our mayor Michael Nutter.  And, implemented in 2007, it has made a substantial difference to rates of smoking in the City of Philadelphia," he said.

While many people try to stop smoking cold turkey, Schwartz says, your likelihood of quitting for good increases when you have support.  That's why Pennsylvania offers free counseling over the phone through its 24-hour "Quitline."  The phone number is 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

And the best part is, if you call now they are also offering up to eight weeks of free nicotine patches, while supplies last.

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