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February 4, 2009 > Washington Hospital Stop Smoking Program Offers Tools for Those Ready to Quit

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

Program Teaches Participants How to Effectively Quit & Enjoy Better Health

Are you ready to stop smoking? In fact, is quitting at the top of your list of new resolutions in 2009? The truth is that quitting smoking can be tough, but not impossible for those who are 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 help those who want to quit smoking, Washington Hospital Healthcare System offers a Stop Smoking Program, beginning on Tuesday, February 17. 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.

"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 Sherry Harrington, a registered respiratory therapist at Washington Hospital. "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 Harrington. "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

There are a number of new resources out there to help people quit smoking, including some medications that have only been developed recently, Harrington 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," Harrington 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.

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 on their own in the past and failed. She recommends that those ready to start the Quit 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.

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," Harrington 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, Harrington 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."

Harrington 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 Tuesday, February 17 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. The fee is $25.00 and refundable after completion of the program.

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