Snuffing out smokingIf 2012 is the year you really will quit smoking, there are several programs available to make your resolution stick, and the rate of success is encouraging.
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
If 2012 is the year you really will quit smoking, there are several programs available to make your resolution stick, and the rate of success is encouraging.
The newest, QuitNet (www.nd.quitnet.com), is as close as your computer or smartphone.
At QuitNet, you can sign up for and receive support and practical tips to stay away from tobacco at any time throughout the year, at no charge.
“Some people prefer the anonymity and flexibility of online help,” said Michelle Walker, director of the cessation program for the North Dakota Department of Health’s division of tobacco prevention and control.
“QuitNet offers supportive emails, tips for quitting and chat rooms. There’s a huge community out there they can access,” she said.
Administered by the state health department, the program offers a free, two-month supply of nicotine patches, chewing gum and lozenges to North Dakotans who are uninsured or whose insurance doesn’t cover the cost of cessation medications, as does the Quitline toll-free telephone support program.
Quitline has a success rate of 36 percent; that is, the percentage of former tobacco users who have not resumed the habit six months after counseling.
Generally, smokers who try to quit on their own have a 3 to 5 percent success rate, said Theresa Knox, a registered nurse and public health team leader with the Grand Forks Public Health Department.
“People are doing it alone, but they don’t have to,” she said. “Quitline is an excellent resource.”
Although national success rate data have not yet been compiled for Quitline, “we’ve heard from other states, anecdotally, that our state’s rate is very high,” said Walker.
Knox agreed, noting “the people who work with Quitline, that’s all they do, day-in and day-out. They’re very passionate about it.”
Initial demographic data shows QuitNet is reaching a younger, more educated and higher income level group than Quitline, Walker said.
You can check out both
Free counseling services for tobacco cessation are available at Grand Forks Public Health, said Knox, a certified tobacco treatment specialist.
“If people just want information or someone to explain their insurance benefits, I can provide that, too,” she said. “It’s all about them. I’m here to help people at whatever stage they’re at.”
Knox works with tobacco users on what is called “discrepancy thinking,” she said. “They think, ‘I want to quit, but I want to smoke.’ There’s a discrepancy there.”
The internal triggers that prompt smoking will go away, she said. “They may last one to three minutes, and then they’re gone.
“We focus on ‘Which direction do you want to go? Do you want to come out on the other side as a smoker or a non-smoker?’”
While some smokers may delay quitting because of perceived expense, Knox said, they are spending more than they may realize. She seeks to minimize out-of-picket costs to allow them time to experience how good they can feel without smoking.
“Within 20 minutes, the body feels better, blood pressure is lowered,” she said. “The body starts healing right away.”
For many tobacco users, the habit is intertwined with their daily routine, Knox said. “You may light up when you walk the dog, after a meal, or when you have a cup of coffee.”
She suggests finding alternatives to activities that ignite the craving.
“Maybe your spouse could walk the dog, or you could have tea instead of coffee,” she said. Just enough change to separate from the normal routine; something that’s not inherently tied to smoking.
Knox also cautions against rebuking yourself if you cave in to the craving.
Cigarettes are highly addictive, she said. “Most people who drink don’t become alcoholics; most people who smoke do become smokers. Quitting is hard.
“It’s not a failure if you slip up, because you learn something each time,” she said, insight that will help you to avoid a situation or pattern that stimulates the tobacco-use urge. A good coach can prepare you for those times.
“Don’t lose hope; when you don’t have hope that self talk shifts to ‘I’m such a loser, I’ll never be able to quit.’”
Eventually habits do break, she said. That’s the hope.
Reach Knudson at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 107; or send e-mail to email@example.com.