Thursday, April 22, 2010

Are You a Smoker Who Wants to be a Non-smoker?

By Maureen Deutermann, MSN, R.N.
Director of Community Education

It was a dark and stormy night. There we were, the visibility out of the already puny windshield of our Volkswagon almost zilch in the blinding Wisconsin snow storm. Suddenly my vision was even more impaired by the cloud of billowing smoke curling off my sister’s newly lit cigarette. I coughed…I hacked…and then I did what many a non-smoker I daresay has resorted to in a similar situation. “Give me one of those darn things!” I lit up…I coughed, I hacked, but from that day on, at the age of 16, I became a smoker.

So began my 16-year on again, off again love affair with cigarettes. In those days we didn’t worry too much about the dangers of smoking. After all, the then paltry warning on the packs: the Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health was hardly a deterrent. Maybe?? Maybe not!! As the years went on I knew better. I even quit for two years once…until I caught a glimpse of a physician’s note after a pre-employment physical…“29-year-old slightly obese female”…I stopped at a 7-11 and picked up a pack on the way home. Cigarettes were my weight control program, my social crutch (I’m a closet introvert) and my stress management.

Sound familiar? It wasn’t until my 18-month- old daughter, Ann, snatched a butt out of the ash tray and grabbed the Bic lighter with the other little fist that something snapped in my smoke-clouded brain synapses. I finally quit for good.

If you are a smoker and you want to quit, you know, as I do, that it just ain’t easy! Yet consider the facts: smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide, causing the death of 393,000 Americans per year. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, and is a main cause of lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema). It is also a major cause of heart disease and stroke. If you need more tangible motivation to consider quitting how about the extra yearly health care expenditures which average out to $4,260 per smoker? Add that to the $1,650-a-year the pack-a-day smoker spends and you’ve got a chunk of change you could probably find a better use for!

If you are a smoker who would like to quit, there’s help out there. Both the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association offer help online. As in my case, quitting smoking often requires several attempts, so don’t be discouraged. Studies show that using counseling or medication separately increase the chances of success, and both together are even more effective.

While not a formal counseling session, Sentara Potomac Hospital offers a weekly Nicotine Anonymous Meeting in the Hylton Education Center from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. every Wednesday. If you are looking for a non-judgmental, supportive group of people who are going through the same struggles as you in your attempts to be nicotine free, please consider joining us. You do not have to have quit smoking to join; only have the desire. Together, we can move mountains…or at least kick butt, literally!