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Supporting smokers to help them quit for good

Published in Tobacco Treatment Author: Wendy M. Miller, APRN, CNP

the great american smokeout november 16

Do you know that most smokers wish they didn’t smoke? Do you know that more than half of all smokers try to quit at least one time every year? Do you know it takes the average adult smoker several, possibly many, serious attempts before they are successful? The good news is that every quit attempt can bring a smoker closer to quitting for good. Today, November 16th, marks the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, an annual day dedicated to encouraging smokers to quit.

I know the challenge of beating a smoking addiction. I hope that by sharing my story I might help someone else. I smoked for 18 years starting at the age of 13. I quit smoking many times, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days, sometimes for months. Once, I even quit for more than a year. But each time I went back to smoking.

Then, in April 2006, my son’s paternal grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died two months later. On May 24 of that year, I quit for good. I didn’t want my son to worry about me getting sick like his grandmother.

Like many smokers, I faced the struggle of knowing I had to quit when I didn’t feel ready to do it. This was a challenging time in my life and I didn’t think that I had the emotional strength to quit. But as a mom, I didn’t feel that I had a choice.

I used nicotine patches and had help from telephone counseling through Minnesota’s QuitPlan. This was a relatively new service at the time and I didn’t think it was going to help much. I was really surprised! The QuitPlan counselors seemed to know about many of the challenges I was going to face and had great ideas to help me get through them. I finally beat my nicotine addiction.

When I became a nurse practitioner, I knew I wanted to do everything I could to help my patients overcome this powerful addiction. When my stepdad was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015, after almost 50 years of smoking, my commitment to helping others became even stronger.

Last year, I got the opportunity to go to the Mayo Clinic and train to become a Tobacco Treatment Specialist. This program taught me how to help my patients beat their nicotine addiction with behavioral counseling, nicotine replacement products and/or prescription medications. We have learned a lot about tobacco cessation in the last 20 years and research shows that counseling combined with medication gives you the best chance for success.

So, what should you do if you are thinking about quitting?

  • Think of all the reasons you want to quit. Write down your reasons so you can look at them every time you want to smoke.
  • Think about times you have quit in the past. Past quit attempts are only failures if we don’t learn from them! Try to figure out what worked for you and what didn’t.
  • Get help. CentraCare has trained Tobacco Treatment Specialists throughout the system to give you the support you need to make this your last quit.

What should you do if you want to help someone you love quit?

  • Be respectful. Recognize that this is a very personal decision and each person must decide for him or herself when they are ready to quit.
  • Be supportive. There are many things you can do to help a person through the quit experience. Ask your loved one how you can best help them.
  • Be resilient. If your loved one isn’t successful, remember that this is normal. Offer your support for whenever they are ready to try again.

I am excited, and so grateful, to say that my stepdad is 23 months tobacco-free and 18 months cancer-free. Because he quit smoking he has a much lower chance of the cancer coming back. No matter how long you have smoked or how serious your health problems are, it is never too late to quit.

When you are ready, we are here to help.