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September 10, 2008 > Are You Ready to Stop Smoking?

Are You Ready to Stop Smoking?

Washington Hospital Stop Smoking Program Offers Tools for Those Ready To Quit

Are you ready to stop smoking? Maybe you've tried quitting before on your own or you feel you are ready to quit for the first time.

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 Stop Smoking Program, beginning Monday, October 6. 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.

"Quitting smoking is made difficult because of nicotine, which is a drug, and it's necessary to treat a drug with a drug," according to Margaret Chaika, respiratory care practitioner and coordinator of Washington Hospital's Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program. "Combined with medication, a stop smoking program can work very well and improve your success rate."

"The body's addiction to nicotine, a psychoactive drug in tobacco products that makes smokers feel good, is more difficult to overcome than both cocaine and heroine," adds Chaika. "Many people who would like to quit find that just will power alone is not enough to combat the cravings and symptoms of withdrawal, which can seem overwhelming without the proper tools."

Cold turkey isn't for everyone

This is why Chaika recommends that those ready to start the Stop Smoking Program talk to their physician about taking one of the many medications that can help them suppress nicotine cravings and help them improve their chances of quitting for good.

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. These new medications help activate nicotine receptors in the brain and block nicotine from attaching to them. Unlike nicotine gums or patches, the medication does not contain nicotine.

"To really benefit from the Stop Smoking Program, participants really have to want to quit for themselves," Chaika says. "Quitting is in the best interest of your health. 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.

Learning the tools to quit for good

The Stop Smoking Program, which takes place one night a week for four weeks, teaches participants how to make long-term goals and keep them.

Topics will tackle the following scenarios:
* Understanding Why You Have An Addiction and How to Quit
* How to Master the First Few Days
* How to Master Obstacles
* 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.

A Message of Success

Finding out how and why you smoke is an important element of developing a strategy to combat cravings.

"This class will teach people how to deal with their urges and the craving for cigarettes," Chaika says. "They will also learn the anatomy of an urge and when you need to use the tools learned in class."

Since smoking is not just a physical addiction, but also a psychological one, it is important to have a support network. This is what makes the Stop Smoking Program so successful in conjunction with medication, Chaika says.

"The program provides camaraderie and support that is essential to helping people quit smoking," she says. "It's important to know that you're not alone. The program gives you tools to cope with the withdrawal symptoms."

Chaika urges those who are ready to quit smoking to make use of the resources available to them, pointing out that 90 percent of the patients in Washington Hospital's Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program smoked.

"Why do good people have unhealthy habits?" she asks. "It's the same thing with anything from overeating to smoking - having knowledge just isn't enough. It's the New Year. We can all make resolutions to improve our health. If you're thinking about quitting, talk to your physician and inquire about Washington Hospital's Stop Smoking Program."

Kick the habit for good!

Washington Hospital's four-week Stop Smoking Program, developed by the American Cancer Society is designed to teach participants effective ways to quit smoking, as well as how to set long-term goals to help them kick the habit. To learn more about the fee based Stop Smoking Program or to register, call Washington Hospital's toll-free Health Connection line at (800) 963-7070. The first class begins on Monday, October 6 from 6 to 7 p.m. Participants will meet in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Room C, at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont, across the street from the main hospital.

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