CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — Fourteen community pharmacies will team up with UVA Health next year to help Appalachians quit smoking and test the effectiveness of multiple tobacco-quitting programs in effort to fight cancer rates in the region.

According to UVA Health, an analysis of data from 2015 to 2019 found the smoking rate in rural Appalachian counties was 20.9%, compared with a statewide smoking rate of 13.3%. Higher rates of cancer in rural Appalachia can also be attributed to smoking. Cigarette smoking is estimated to account for 30% of all cancer deaths and 90% of all lung cancer deaths in the region, also according to UVA Health.

Despite these high rates of cancer related to smoking, according to UVA Health, people in rural Appalachia are less likely to take advantage of resources to quit smoking. Melissa Little, a researcher in the UVA School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences is working to make Appalachian smokers more aware of resources that can help them quit.

“It is clear that publicly available smoking cessation resources are not reaching residents in this region,” Little said. “We are hoping that by working with local community pharmacies, we’ll be able to help more smokers interested in quitting who otherwise may not have sought help with their quit attempt.”

UVA Health will be partnering with 14 local pharmacies in Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia and Tennessee were selected to participate for the study, which is expected to begin in April 2023.

The new study in Appalachia will evaluate the effectiveness of different combinations of smoking quitting programs. All participants will receive nicotine replacement therapy through gum, a patch or both, in addition to one of three therapy programs.

The programs are QuitAid, which involves one in-person meeting with a pharmacist and five follow-up phone calls; Tobacco Quitline, which gives participants four phone calls over the course of four weeks with a trained tobacco treatment specialist and SmokefreeTEXT, a program from the National Cancer Institute which sends participants three to five texts a day for seven weeks to assist not only with quitting but preventing relapses.

Pharmacies and smokers interested in the program can learn more by emailing Quitaid@hscmail.mcc.virginia.edu or by calling the study’s coordinator Taylor Reid at 434.924.8894.

The study is backed by more than $5 million in funding from the National Cancer Institute.