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September 18, 2007 > Quitters Live Longer, Enjoy Better Health

Quitters Live Longer, Enjoy Better Health

Program Teaches Participants How to Effectively Quit Smoking

More than 20 percent of adults 18 years of age and over currently smoke cigarettes, according to the most recent data published by the National Center for Health Statistics. That's more than one in five Americans. And many of them would like to quit. Are you one of them?
The truth is that quitting smoking can be tough, but not impossible for those motivated to improve their health and the health of those around them. Smoking is a strong physical addiction, not a personality flaw or weakness. Nicotine, a chemical found in cigarettes, is as addictive as cocaine or heroine, according to the American Cancer Society, which can make it very difficult for those who want to quit to do so.

To help those who want to quit, Washington Hospital Healthcare System offers its Quit Smoking for Good smoking cessation program, beginning Monday, Oct. 1. Developed by the American Cancer Society, the program is designed to help participants stop smoking by providing them with essential information and strategies needed to direct their own efforts at quitting.
The program offers participants a key element to successfully quitting smoking, according to Dr. Jason Chu, Medical Director for Pulmonary Rehab and Respiratory Care Services at Washington Hospital.
To maximize the chances of a successful outcome, patients must incorporate the following three components into their plans for quitting:
* Physician intervention: Tell your doctor about your plans to quit and ask for his or her advice.
* Counseling: Seek out a social support network, such as the one provided through the Quit Smoking for Good program.
* Pharmacological intervention: Talk to your doctor about new medications that may be able to help you overcome withdrawal symptoms.

The numbers add up, Dr. Chu says. For those who incorporate all three elements, their success rate for quitting is between 75 and 85 percent. For those who utilize two components, the success rate is 65 percent. Using one element drops the chances to 50 percent.
For those who don't take advantage of physician intervention, counseling or medications to help them their chances of quitting drop to 30 percent.

Why quit?
"Those who quit smoking live longer and healthier," says Dr. Chu. "I think a program like this is extremely beneficial if we can capture the intended audience."
Ideally, Dr. Chu says, the program targets younger smokers who have yet to suffer any of the ill effects of smoking. He admits that targeting this population can be difficult because many may not see a pressing urge to quit until they have suffered some type of health problem related to smoking.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) cites a number of practical reasons to quit smoking sooner rather than later. These include:
* Being able to taste and smell food better. Your breath smells better. Your cough goes away.
* Reducing the risk of lung cancer, many other cancers, heart disease, stroke, other lung diseases, and other respiratory illnesses.
* Improving overall health and having fewer days of illness, fewer health complaints, and less bronchitis and pneumonia than current smokers.
* Saving money. (A pack-a-day smoker, who pays at least $4 per pack, can expect to save more than $1,400 per year. With the rising price of cigarettes, the financial rewards of quitting continue to increase.)

Learning the tools to quit for good
The Quit Smoking for Good program, which takes place one night a week for four weeks, teaches participants how to make long-term goals and keep them. Topics include: Understanding Why You Have An Addiction and How to Quit, Mastering the First Few Days, Mastering Obstacles and Staying Quit and Enjoying It Forever.
"The program focuses on an active approach to quitting smoking through group participation and social support," according to the program's facilitator, Deborah Garcia, R.N., M.S.N., Washington Hospital's Manager of Health Promotion. "I believe it is helpful to engage participants in their program through being active and part of a group."
Garcia points out that receiving social support and encouragement from fellow participants can make all the difference for those who have tried quitting "cold turkey" on their own in the past and failed.

Better breathing
Quitting smoking is the best decision a person can make to ensure they breathe better today and in the future, according to Margaret Chaika, BS, RCP, Pulmonary Rehabilitation Coordinator for Washington Hospital.
Chaika estimates that 90 percent of the patients she sees in the Pulmonary Rehabilitation program at Washington Hospital smoked during their lives. The program treats patients with a number of chronic respiratory conditions, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis.
There are a number of new resources out there to help people quit smoking, including some medications that have only been developed recently, Chaika emphasizes. For those who have the motivation to quit, she recommends talking to their physician about medications, such as CHANTIX(tm) (varenicline), which is believed to work by activating nicotine receptors in the brain and blocking nicotine from attaching to them. Unlike nicotine gums or patches, the medication does not contain nicotine.
"To really benefit from the Quit Smoking for Good program, participants really have to want to quit for themselves," Chaika says. "Quitting is in the best interest of your health, but I can't make you quit. You have to make the decision to quit for you and you alone."
That said, it is never too late to quit smoking. The American Cancer Society states that those who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared to those who continue to smoke. The rate of breathing-related illnesses also decreases.
"My advice is to try to be proactive, listen to the advice from your physicians and other health care practitioners and get a support system," Dr. Chu suggests. "I believe once you become really entrenched in the smoking cessation program, you will feel compelled to help promote it because you will see the benefit you've received from the program. Many ex-smokers become counselors once they see how they've benefited."

Achieve success!
To learn more about the Quit Smoking for Good program or to register, call Washington Hospital's toll-free Health Connection line at (800) 963-7070. The program will be held on Mondays from 6 to 7 p.m. The first class begins Monday, Oct. 1. (Pre-registration is required.)

WHAT: Quit Smoking for Good smoking cessation program
WHEN: 6 to 7 p.m., Mondays, beginning Oct. 1 (four-week program)
WHERE: Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Ave., Fremont CA 94538
CALL: (800) 963-7070 for more information or to register

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