Schenectady County

Smokers who misdial help line get sex talk instead

Jeannette Domanico’s doctor finally got through to her recently about her smoking.

Jeannette Domanico’s doctor finally got through to her recently about her smoking.

It was her first time trying to quit, after nearly 40 years of lighting up more than a pack a day.

To help her along, the office passed her the New York State Smokers’ Quit Line, a toll-free number offering a starter kit for those who want to stop.

She called the number she was given and was floored.

“It was too funny,” the 54-year-old Rotterdam resident recalled Friday. “I thought New York had a new answer on how to quit smoking.”

She meant phone sex.

Domanico actually called a similar number, but not the correct number, which is 1-866-NYQUITS.

That wrong number starts with “1-800,” which ingrained in many minds as the prefix for toll-free numbers.

The state Department of Health, which runs the smokers’ line, has been aware of the problem for some time now, spokeswoman Claire Pospisil said.

She said they’ve gotten few calls about it. Officials respond by giving out the correct number.

She noted that sometimes unscrupulous businesses purposely set up phone lines similar to legitimate numbers to ensnare unsuspecting people.

Legitimate toll-free numbers can also be the victim of another number’s success. Ryan Seacrest can often be heard emphasizing the 866 prefix for calls on the Fox television show “American Idol.” Regular businesses have been reported to be overrun by calls from viewers who think they’re voting for favorite idols.

Two out of the three other toll-free prefixes with “NYQUITS” go to sex lines. The lines charge $2.99 per minute but what they offer is unknown; the Gazette does not pay for interviews with news sources.

Web sites, Pospisil said, can operate in a similar manner. She noted the classic example of the Web site for the White House, actually But the standard redirected visitors to a sex site for a time. It now no longer does.

As for the state’s stop-smoking program, Pospisil touted the state’s new campaign for doctors to push harder for their patients to quit.

The campaign includes the correct 1-866-NYQUITS line. It also includes a Web site for doctors — And, in case anyone’s wondering, is also owned by the state and redirects visitors to the correct site.

As for Domanico, she finally got to the correct number. That was after calling her doctor’s office back. They also tried the wrong number and were amazed — until they realized the mistake.

Dialing the correct number, Domanico signed up for the free starter kit of nicotine patches, gum or lozenges. The line also offers specialists and information on stop-smoking programs.

Family members, she said, have wanted her and her husband David to quit for some time. Now, the couple has decided to try together, with the kit and some help from some stop-smoking medication.

The medication, she said, they plan to start Thursday, Valentine’s Day.

“We picked Valentine’s Day,” Domanico said, “because we really love each other and we want to have each other around as long as possible.”

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