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Quitting smoking is a popular New Year’s Resolution for many people, but the success rate for those who quit “cold turkey” is far from encouraging.
Thanks to Essentia Health of Brainerd/Baxter’s Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialists, long-term success is more possible than ever.
It’s tough to quit smoking. No one knows this more than Rose Heimark. The Brainerd grandmother of six has quit a few times, but then, feeling defeated, started back up again.
This time, with support from her family and an Essentia Health certified tobacco treatment specialist, Heimark has been smoke-free for more than 60 days; the longest she’s gone without a cigarette in 40 years.
“The first time I smoked I was 14, but I didn’t pick it up regularly until I was 17,” Heimark explained. “I quit a couple of times, but it didn’t take. I made a New Year’s resolution that I wanted to quit smoking this year. I knew I wanted to do this, but didn’t start trying to quit until May.”
Quit Smoking with Essentia Health’s Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialists
Heimark later began meeting with Janet Ellevold, a certified tobacco treatment specialist at Essentia Health – Baxter Clinic.
Together, they set a Quit Date — Aug. 24 — and created a personalized plan to help Heimark meet her goals.
There are seven medications available, from nicotine patches, lozenges and gum to prescription medications, which help keep nicotine cravings at bay. A tobacco cessation specialist goes through the options with their patients, discussing the side effects and finding the right tobacco cessation aids that work for them.
There is no judgment or shame involved in this process. Ellevold said quitting smoking is one of the most difficult things to do. Smoking is not only physically addictive, but the desire to smoke is also triggered by many common things in everyday life, like stress.
“I don’t drink at all. My last vice was smoking. When my stress level goes up, my smoking goes up,” explained Heimark. “I had to quit when I was ready, not when everybody was ready for me to do it.”
Ellevold said research shows that people are more successful when they have face-to-face counseling, along with tobacco cessation aids. Patients can be referred to a certified tobacco treatment specialist or call themselves and set up an appointment. Essentia Health has seven certified tobacco treatment specialists who serve in clinics in Baxter, Brainerd, Crosslake, Emily, Pequot Lakes, Pierz, Pillager and Pine River. This service is covered by most health insurance plans.
“I really love doing what I do,” said Ellevold. “Most people want to quit, but at the same time, they don’t want to quit. Many feel tobacco is one of their closest friends, and not a good friend. People think smoking is a stress reliever, but when they stop, their mental health actually improves. The evidence would say that smoking does not actually relieve stress, although most smokers think it does. It releases dopamine in the brain and gives a feeling of pleasure, but does not relieve stress.”
Quitting Smoking | Difussing Stress Triggers
Heimark opted for nicotine patches and lozenges. It hasn’t been easy, but slowly, her nicotine cravings grew less intense. It’s still a struggle, but her reason for quitting is important to her.
“Last year I was diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and I know a lot of that is because of smoking,” said Heimark. “I want to be around for my grandchildren.”
Heimark has found ways to avoid triggers. When she feels the urge to smoke, she’ll play games on her phone or computer, play with her grandchildren or start a cleaning project. One day she felt a strong desire to light up, and even went to her bedroom to get a cigarette and lighter. Her 3-year-old granddaughter, Jasmine, stopped her on her way outside.
“Grandma, don’t do it, you’ve been doing so good,” Jasmine told her. “That was enough for me to put the cigarette down,” added Heimark.
Using the Buddy System to Quit Smoking
Heimark’s daughter, Shannon Kaping, is also trying to quit smoking. She recently decided to quit again because she knew it would be easier for her mom to quit since they live together. Kaping is using Chantix, a tobacco cessation medication.
Together, mother and daughter are encouraging each other as they work to kick their nicotine habit.
“Having my daughter to talk to helps a lot,” Heimark said. “And it’s helpful to check in with Janet (Ellevold). It helps with positive reinforcement.”
Ellevold said anyone who thinks they want to quit but aren’t sure that they can take that big step right now should make an appointment anyway.
If you’ve recently tried to quit and started up again, it’s OK. Come in and meet with a certified tobacco treatment specialist. Health insurance usually covers two smoking cessation attempts each year.
“When you’re ready to quit again, know that you can continue to quit again,” Ellevold said. “Even if you’re not sure you want to quit, we can work with you, too. There’s never any judgment in here. This is a hard thing.”
Research shows that when patients quit cold turkey, one out of 10 will become successful. When using medications, two out of 10 people are successful in quitting. When medications are combined with face-to-face counseling, three out of 10 will remain tobacco-free. Heimark is determined to be one of those success stories. Her advice for those who want to quit smoking is to set a realistic quit date. “Decide when you want to quit,” Heimark said. “I gave myself this whole year. Then do it one day at a time. That’s all you can do. It truly is a tough one to kick.”
Quitting Smoking – Free Resources and a New Screening Tool
One in five adults in Crow Wing County continue to use tobacco. But the Crow Wing County Health Survey last fall also found that 70 percent of current cigarette smokers stopped smoking for one or more days during the past year because they were trying to quit.
This is good news, and Crow Wing Energized is actively supporting local institutions, businesses and churches, including Central Lakes College, Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Baxter, and Northern Pines Mental Health Center, as they support their students, church members and clients to quit smoking.
Certified tobacco treatment specialists at Essentia Health are a local option for help. They provide one-on-one help, suggest medications proven to make quitting easier, and provide research-based tips and advice to help you succeed. This service is covered at 100% by most health insurance plans. To get started, call 218.828.7100.
Low-dose CT scans are also available to anyone 55-80 years old, who smoked a pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years. Former smokers who have quit within the last 15 years are also eligible. The low-dose CT scans can detect lung cancer earlier in people who are at high risk. By screening those at greatest risk, it’s estimated that lung cancer deaths will drop by 20 percent, says Dr. Aby Philip, an Essentia Health hematologist and oncologist. Philip said more than 80 percent of all lung cancers are caused by smoking. So quitting, or never starting, is important.
To schedule a lung cancer screening, first meet with your primary care physician to determine if you meet the criteria and to discuss the risks and benefits of a low-dose CT scan. The visit will also include talking about the medications and counseling services available to help you quit smoking.
JOIN THE GREAT AMERICAN SMOKEOUT
Visit www.cancer.org and download resources to use in your workplace and other community places to promote the Great American Smokeout. This is an annual event on Nov. 16, put on by the American Cancer Society to encourage Americans to stop smoking.
Essentia Health is guided by the values of quality, hospitality, respect, justice, stewardship and teamwork. From emergency care to convenient care, family care to speciality practice, Essentia Health delivers on its promise to be “Here With You” in the Brainerd Lakes Area. Learn more at www.essentiahealth.org.