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Tobacco Quitline Calls It Quits

Twenty-seven people are out of a job at Illinois' Tobacco Quitline, which means there's no one left to answer the phone.

For the past 15 years, Illinois smokers could dial 1-866-QUIT-YES, and a tobacco treatment counselor or nurse would answer. Try calling now, and there's a message saying: "Your call is important to us. Unfortunately, Quitline funding has been suspended due to budget cuts and we will be closed until further notice."

It was an abrupt end. Supporters say they had little financial wiggle room.

Word that Gov. Bruce Rauner was eliminating the Quitline's state grant came late last week -- with less than three months left in the fiscal year.

Rauner's office says while smoking is a serious health issue, the cut is part of a comprehensive approach to closing the deficit without raising taxes.

The governor has proposed funding the Quitline next year, albeit at a lower rate. Anti-smoking advocates question the sense of that -- saying another $325,000 could have kept the service afloat, rather than forcing it to restart from scratch in July, after the experienced staff might have moved on to other jobs.

But the Quitline's message, at least, remains optimistic. It says: "Please try your call again soon as funding may be restored in the near future. Thanks again for calling the Quitline."

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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