Want to snuff out smoking for good? That’s a great idea, and a potentially lifesaving choice that could add years to your life.
Experts on smoking cessation say that the most proactive way to tackle the often agonizing nicotine withdrawal that comes with giving up smoking is by combining behavior modification, medication and lots of moral support. “Stop thinking of quitting as simply a matter of willpower,” says Susan Richards, who teaches the free Smokestoppers classes offered by St. Vincent’s Medical Center. “[Nicotine] is a drug and your body and your brain are addicted.”
Richards points to national statistics that say that while only 5 percent of smokers who quit cold turkey are successful, those numbers grow to a more encouraging 40 percent range when quitting is combined with behavioral changes and nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches, chewing gum and prescription medicines that curb cravings. “So much has changed with tobacco treatment; all of it for the better,” says Richards.
Fortunately for Fairfield County residents, the region’s hospitals offer programs to help kick the habit that are free or low-cost, meaning you don’t have to go it alone. And since medications to help hopeful quitters quit are often covered under most insurance plans, the time to extinguish the habit is now. Here’s a brief look at what’s out
St. Vincent’s Medical Center
While the hospital offers eight-class sessions four times a year, quitters can also opt for a simple one-on-one thirty-minute counseling session with a behavior therapist who will coach them on quitting strategies, even text supportive messages. Quitters are encouraged to match that moral support with medications and a behavioral-change plan. “If that means they skip their regular girls’ night for a few weeks, I would encourage that,” says behavior therapist Susan Richards.
The hospital has been offering its free, five-week smoking cessation program twice a year for thirty years, but in 2017 may expand to four times a year as the hospital focuses more on wellness and prevention programs. Its kick-the-habit program uses a combination of education and moral support in classes taught by American Lung Association certified instructors. “People do a lot better if they understand why it’s so hard to quit,” notes Beverly Jacoby, the hospital’s smoking cessation coordinator. “Going through this process with others, knowing they are feeling the same way you are, helps greatly with support.” If smokers can’t make a meeting, Jacoby will schedule one-one-one phone sessions to make sure a person gets the encouragement they need.
At its main campus, the hospital offers a highly personalized Commit to Quit treatment program that includes multiple one-on-one counseling sessions. Treatment strategies often include medications to help smokers achieve improved quit rates. The program boasted a 40 percent success rate this year, better than the anticipated 30 percent rate, notes hospital spokesman Craig Andrews.
The recognition that many smokers tried—and failed—to quit in the past was the inspiration behind the hospital’s free Fresh Start program. “Quitting smoking may require several attempts,” says Diane DeMain, a nurse educator with Community Health at Greenwich Hospital. “Taking part in Fresh Start can be helpful because you’re in a group environment that offers support and tips for quitting.” The program includes four free, one-hour sessions designed by the American Cancer Society. A nurse educator and clinical pharmacist provide information about smoking cessation techniques, nicotine replacement products (including the patch, gum and lozenges), medications (such as Chantix and Wellbutrin), e-cigarettes and holistic practices such as acupuncture.