— By BRIAN SMITH
Today is the annual Great American Smokeout, where Americans are encouraged to quit smoking for a day in an attempt to spur more people to quit permanently.
Studies have shown that at any given time, two thirds of all smokers are considering quitting. A quarter will make a serious attempt each year – many as a New Year’s resolution. But just 7 percent will be successful in the first try.
In many cases, it takes something traumatic in a person’s life, such as the loss of a loved one to cancer or other diseases, to get them to stop. Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S. but studies show it takes an average of seven attempts before a smoker is actually able to quit.
Joe Larson is a smoker who has tried to quit, but said he “hasn’t quite gotten over the hump yet.” Smoking a cigarette while fueling his truck at a local gas station Wednesday, Larson said he began smoking at the age of 12 as a result of peer pressure, and said he has averaged a pack a day for the last 35 years.
Larson says he has “quit” four or five times over the years, trying a nicotine patch or simply going cold turkey, but says his fear of getting fat drives him back to the cigarette.
“Smoking is a bad thing, that’s for sure, but so are the complications from eating too much or drinking, too,” Larson said. “Everyone’s got their vice and this is mine, I guess.”
Lee Ann Adams gives praise to God for helping her quit smoking.
“It was about eight or 10 years ago and I was listening to a guest speaker at Bethany Fellowship Church saying how the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, which I had heard before,” Adams recalled. “Something clicked at that moment, though, and I got the cigarettes out of my purse, raised them above my head and threw them down on the ground at the speaker’s feet.”
Adams said her action made her she felt humiliated at the time, but she said it did the trick. Through the grace of God and a simple water bottle she began to substitute for her cigarette, she said she was able to quit cold turkey.
Adams admits it wasn’t easy, saying there were times she cried.
“I don’t know if the bottle provided the hand-lip coordination or if the water was filling me up, but I have not had a cigarette since then,” Adams said. “I called to the name of Jesus and he answered.”
Adams also says she has not put on one pound since quitting. Quitting smoking also gave her the courage to give up caffeinated beverages at the same time. She admits to falling off the wagon with coffee, but insists that she drinks only decaf or a split to cut down the caffeine.
“I look back and think to myself, ‘How could something that small have so much power in my life?’” Adams said. “I’m to the point where even secondhand smoke will give me a headache after a few minutes. I wonder what the regular smoke had been doing to my body all those years.”
Bill Mallory said he needed some incentive to quit smoking ... and got it in a most unlikely place.
“I quit smoking in 1991 after TXU offered all of us smokers incentives to quit smoking,” Mallory, who was a mechanic for the company, said. “We were given the option of using hypnosis or a patch, which you needed a prescription for back then.”
He said by the second week on the patch it got easier and said all cravings for a cigarette after 33 years went away after about six months.
“If you’re going to do it, you have to make the effort,” Mallory said. “You have to get rid of all the ashtrays and other things that remind you of smoking as well.”
Mallory said he began smoking in eighth grade in 1958 because it was the “in thing” to do at the time. He admitted he previously tried three or four times to quit smoking over the years but said it wasn’t until the incentives were there that he took the leap of faith.
“About that time, a lot of buildings were becoming smoke free, including the ones at TXU,” Mallory said. “It was just time for me.”
Texas Tech University’s Lee Cohen, a smoking cessation expert and clinical psychologist, says cigarettes are a legalized drug and quitting is never easy.
“Quitting any addictive drug is complicated. Quitting smoking is even more so because it’s a legal drug,” Cohen stated in an e-mail. “It’s associated with so many things. Smokers often wonder, ‘What am I going to do with all this extra time? How am I going to drink my coffee without a cigarette? How am I going to eat my meal without a cigarette?’ It’s part of everything they do, which makes quitting more difficult.”
Simply putting on a patch in an attempt to quit will yield mixed results, he said.
“It’s standard to offer smokers medication, but medication alone won’t be enough,” Cohen said.
“It’s not as simple as just slipping on a patch. People should get into a group with people they can talk to. It’s interesting how someone who tries and fails numerous times can be very successful when they’re talking to people who understand what they are going through.”