Great American Smokeout: employees learn to kick butts
November 20, 2008
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- Tasty turkey treats might be on the dinner plates of most people on Thanksgiving, but for some people, the "cold turkey" they will be serving will be hard to swallow.
Thursday was the American Cancer Society's 33rd Great American Smokeout, and many people will be attempting to quit smoking and overcome their nicotine addiction.
While many may not be able to completely kick the habit, members of the Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem community will have additional help with a pair of battle buddies at the Community Wellness Center on Fort McPherson.
Community Wellness Center employees Jane Hayes, employee assistance program manager, and Eric Powell, prevention education coordinator, are working hard to help smokers cut their cravings and kick the habit.
"We work hand in hand," Powell said.
Like a military attack, the duo confronts the issue on multiple fronts to best increase the chance of success.
On one front, Powell educates people, while on another, Hayes works with individuals in counseling appointments to help break the way people think about smoking and offers a support system.
Education and counseling aren't the only options available. One new tool in the arsenal against smoking is the new drug Chantix, a prescription medication marketed by Pfizer and used to treat smoking addiction, said Hayes.
The drug, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration May 11, 2006, reduces cravings for cigarettes and other tobacco and is currently used in lieu of the nicotine patch, gum or other medications in the Army's arsenal, Hayes added.
Still, despite effective tests, no drug can ever claim a 100-percent effectiveness. That is where a support system and education can help people out.
To be an effective support system, Powell said, the manner in which one supports is important.
"The number one way to turn people off is being preachy or judgmental," Powell said.
People should expect that there may be relapses, not criticize the individual, encourage trying again and continue to help hold the tobacco user accountable for their pledge, Powell added.
Although anyone can be a support system - friends, family, co-workers - Hayes said she is convinced the best support is from people who are ex-smokers because they realize the challenges associated with quitting.
As an ex-smoker who smoked in college, Hayes offers help for people who need help and additional support in kicking their habit. Individual appointments tend to last between 30 and 60 minutes and are held weekly, Hayes said.
"Some make up their mind to quit their first time," Hayes said. "Regularly, it takes six appointments, but some take as little as three or up to eight. It depends on the individual's degree of motivation."
The most popular motivation usually comes from either being diagnosed with a health problem or knowing someone close who has been diagnosed, Hayes said.
"People see their own mortality," Hayes said. "Health is the number one reason people want to quit."
For Hayes, motivation came by visualizing what the smoke was doing to her body. Realizing all the damage it was causing, she dropped her desire.
It is here that education plays a key, Powell said. Such education is needed because of the perception the media gives about smokers: they are cool, confident, competent.
"When we look at the magazines, we see beautiful ladies, but we don't see the emphysema. We see the cool Marlboro man, but not the oxygen mask," Powell said. "As Paul Harvey would say, 'That's the other side of the story.'"
Even when presented with the other side of the story and dangers, Powell realizes some people may still not decide to quit.
"If we can't prevent, we want to at least provide factual research so people can make an educated decision," Powell said. "I tell you here are your choices, now you decide."