A local success story encourages people who use tobacco to quit in the new year.
New Year’s Day represents the opportunity for a fresh start and Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is encouraging people who use tobacco to consider giving their health a fresh start this new year by kicking the habit.
Last month, JCPH interviewed a former tobacco user willing to share about the personal journey of quitting as a way to help inspire others to quit in 2016. In order to maintain this person’s anonymity, the initials “J.S.” have been used to identify responses to the questions that were asked. When reading this interview, keep in mind that quitting tobacco is a unique experience for everyone and part of the quitting journey is discovering what strategies work best for each individual. In an effort to provide additional information and encouragement, a quitting specialist from JCPH has added commentary after each question.
JCPH: Please share a little bit about your tobacco use history.
J.S.: Both my grandfather and grandmother smoked, and when I was a kid I would hide their cigarettes as an attempt to get them to quit. I hated the smell of cigarette smoke. As I got older, smoking became the cool thing to do among my peers. I started dabbling with smoking around the age of 12 and would steal cigarettes from my grandmother until I could buy my own. I began smoking more heavily around the age of 16 or 17 and eventually was up to almost two packs a day. I managed to keep my tobacco use a secret from everyone in my family, except from my grandmother and son, for the entire time I smoked, which was almost 20 years.
JCPH Quit Specialist: Per the Surgeon General, nearly 9 out of 10 people who use tobacco start before the age of 18. Studies show that because the teen brain is still developing, youth are more vulnerable to nicotine addiction.
JCPH: When and why did you quit?
J.S.: I thought about quitting several times but hadn’t made any quit attempts until I was ready. I hated the smell of smoke and the control that smoking had over me, and I had a young son who was encouraging me to quit. I planned my quit date to be an ex-wedding anniversary, since I wanted that day to mean something different for me. Now it does, and I haven’t smoked a cigarette since, which was about seven years ago.
JCPH Quit Specialist: Putting a plan together and setting a quit date are important first steps towards regaining your freedom from tobacco. People who have a plan for quitting in advance of their quit day can increase the odds of staying tobacco-free for life.
JCPH: What other strategies or tools did you find to be helpful and effective with quitting?
J.S.: I used an approved cessation medication. I highly recommend using nicotine replacement therapy or a cessation medication to help with getting past the initial symptoms of withdrawal.
JCPH Quit Specialist: Using approved products and medications can increase the chances of quitting tobacco by minimizing cravings and limiting symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Even for those who are not ready to quit, these products can help people who use tobacco to withstand periods when tobacco use is prohibited. They can also reduce health risks by limiting tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure.
JCPH: Have you had any setbacks (or do you have any specific triggers)?
J.S.: Once my physical cravings were gone, I realized that my addiction to cigarettes was very much an emotional thing for me. My grandmother was everything to me. We were allies and would smoke together, which was part of the bond between us. It was difficult to lose an aspect of our relationship, but my son encouraged me to stay smoke-free. He says he will never smoke because I quit for him, and that encouragement kept me going.
JCPH Quit Specialist: Remember that for most people quitting is a process that typically requires more than one attempt and involves more than just getting through withdrawals. Think of it like building a muscle, developing new skills, or even retraining or "re-wiring" your brain when it comes to smoking patterns and dependence on nicotine. Consider every quit attempt a training opportunity and keep going. Make adjustments to address what you learn from each quit attempt, and bring all the encouragement and motivation that you can muster to "get back in the quitting game" if you slip or relapse.
JCPH: What have been the benefits of quitting?
J.S.: I got my sense of smell and taste back, and I like not smelling like smoke. I don’t have burn holes in my clothes anymore, and I’m a safer driver now that I am not distracted by cigarettes. I can breathe better and no longer cough up a thick mucus in the mornings.
JCPH Quit Specialist: It is never too late to quit – within 20 minutes after you smoke that last cigarette, your body begins a series of healing changes that continue for years.
JCPH: How would you encourage others who are thinking of quitting tobacco?
J.S: I would tell my story and share the benefits I experienced from not smoking without being judgmental or putting them down. I don’t want to judge or shame anyone. I would also recommend experimenting with different resources and support to figure out what works for them. You have to cut yourself some slack during the quitting process, and know that if you do mess up, you just have to try again.
JCPH Quit Specialist: For more inspirational stories from people who have quit tobacco, watch The Journey of Quitting videos. Quitting is hard but, with the right tools, resources and support, you can do it! Consider using some of the following free resources to help with the journey to quit smoking or quit using other tobacco products:
- For telephone support, coaching and resources to help you or a loved one become tobacco-free; call the Colorado Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). The QuitLine also has a web-based support, www.coquitline.org. This free service provides information and tools to tailor your own personal plan for quitting.
- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment offers www.TobaccoFreeCO.org, an online web hub that connects visitors to a variety of resources and topics including cessation services and information on preventing secondhand smoke exposure and youth tobacco use.
- SmokeFreeTXT is a free text-based program that places you on the path to a life free from tobacco.
- Attend a free tobacco cessation group hosted by Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge on Tuesdays from 12pm-1pm or 5:30pm-6:30pm. This is a six week drop-in group that provides adults who want to quit smoking with tools and support to achieve their goals. You do not need to attend all six weeks in order to participate.
- You may also visit the Thinking of Quitting page on the Tobacco-Free Jeffco Website for a list of additional resources and videos that will encourage and help you to quit.
· The JCPH Tobacco Prevention Initiative offers a 2016 New Year’s Resolution infographic to help tobacco users navigate the journey of quitting. This educational handout provides reasons to quit, steps to design a quit plan, a tracking tool and tips on staying tobacco-free.
· JCPH also offers an online nine day quit guide to help you stay on track.
Jefferson County Public Health’s Tobacco Prevention Initiative is working to educate about the harms of tobacco in our communities and to promote tobacco-free living. For more information or to get involved, please visit: www.tobaccofreejeffco.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call Donna Viverette at 303-275-7555.
or call Donna Viverette at 303-275-7555.