Monday, August 15, 2005

Ruthie's Smoke-Free Promise

The Kansas City Star published the following article on the internet recently. The article includes some comments that I made:

"Motivation is key to kicking habit"


The Kansas City Star

Kate Walsh of Kansas City has tried to quit smoking for 15 years.

The 47-year-old St. Luke’s Hospital nurse has tried nicotine patches, nicotine gum and quitting cold turkey. She once paid $3,000 to attend a smoking cessation clinic in Minnesota where she ended up surrounded by smoking drug addicts and alcoholics.

“I got a refund,” said Walsh, who also tried paying a chiropractor to put an acupressure staple through her ear.

Nothing worked.

“Put it down to willpower,” Walsh conceded. “You really, truly have to want to quit. On some level, I obviously don’t.”

Motivation: It’s got to be powerful.

On Tuesday — two days after ABC’s longtime news anchor Peter Jennings, a smoker, died of lung cancer at age 67 — actress Dana Reeve, a nonsmoker and wife of the late “Superman” actor Christopher Reeve, revealed that she also has lung cancer.

In response, hits in Kansas City on the American Cancer Society’s Web site have risen nearly 20 percent. Stop-smoking counselors at the society have been inundated with calls. ABC News continues to receive condolences from smokers who say Jennings’ death will change their habits. At the American Lung Association, a Web log of tributes to Peter Jennings runs more than 11 pages, with many writers vowing to quit.

“I started smoking at age 16 and now I am 30. I will quit because Peter Jennings died of lung cancer,” wrote TruAsia Parks of Brooklyn.

***“I watched the re-broadcast of Peter Jennings’ final farewell on TV last night … I’m gonna quit, people. That’s it,” wrote Ruth Rader, address withheld.***

“I am a 35-year-old wife and mom and thank God for Peter Jennings’ message of mercy this past April. When he announced he had lung cancer, I started to get serious about quitting,” wrote Mickey Gorrell of Yukon, Okla.

“I am quitting smoking, and my spouse will be soon to follow,” wrote Maria Littlefield, also of Oklahoma. “We are doing this for our son. I will never forget the look on his face when he told me about Peter. He stared at me with that knowing look. At that moment, I made up my mind that I had smoked for the last time.”

Although quitting smoking is extremely difficult, for some requiring the better part of a lifetime, experts agree that most of the methods designed to help smokers quit — from gum and patches to counseling to hypnotherapy — do help. But a big key is motivation.

Although for some people, high-profile cases such as Jennings’ and Reeve’s may provide that motivation, for most other people, the motivation generally is much more deeply personal.

In January, Tricia Snow, a project director at the University of Kansas Medical Center, finished the second of two stop-smoking projects at Swope Parkway Health Center. The $1 million Kick It at Swope I and Kick It at Swope II projects, funded by the National Institutes of Health, were designed to evaluate ways to help African-Americans who were either heavy or light smokers to quit.

Kick It at Swope I involved 650 heavy smokers, defined as smokers who smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day.

Test subjects were given either a combination of counseling and the anti-smoking drug Zyban, or counseling and placebo. Results showed that of those who took the drug and underwent counseling, the success rate was 25 percent over six months.

In Kick It at Swope II, 755 light smokers (fewer than 10 cigarettes a day) were tested using counseling and nicotine gum. The success rate over six months was 20 percent.

For both groups, personal motivation was a key.

“For some people, hearing about a loved one or someone they cared about being diagnosed with lung cancer can be enough right there,” Snow said. “That can make some people quit. But for other people it doesn’t make a difference. They have to find their own motivation. It may be a son, or a grandchild. Everyone has to have their own reason, and they have to have it 100 percent.”

Often the motivation is a health scare such as a heart attack or high blood pressure, emphysema or out-of-control cholesterol, said Renee Kelley, spokeswoman for the Kansas City-based Heartland Division of the American Cancer Society, which covers Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

For others, it’s simpler.

“To be honest,” she said, “it is usually a loved one telling them they want them to quit. It is usually someone who loves them telling them, ‘I don’t like you smoking. I want you healthy. I want you to quit.’ ”

James Biggs, 54, said he has smoked since age 17. His adult children, ages 23 and 25, also smoke. A two-pack-a-day smoker, Biggs was part of the Kick-It at Swope I study. As much as he wants to quit, he wasn’t able.

“I really don’t like it,” he said of smoking. “Half the time, it’s just sticking out of my mouth.”

His motivation was money, age and health. He said he’d simply smoked too long. His habit cost him about $250 a month.

But that wasn’t enough.

“I think mostly you have to be self-motivated,” he said. “You have to make up your mind. I’m still working on it real hard. I’m still trying to make up my mind.”

Gary Charles, 55, of Independence, also was part of the study and managed to quit. He smoked for 32 years. He believes that while the death of individuals like Jennings might motivate some people, he thinks it’s few.

“My father died of lung cancer, and I continued smoking after that,” he said.

His motivation: “I was getting ready to be a grandparent. I want to be around for my grandson. That is very important to me,” he said.

Kevin Fernholz, 25, who was not part of the study, also stopped smoking. He started smoking at 15 and quit three years ago for his health, vanity and to not waste energy. Fernholz, who became a Lenexa firefighter six months ago, started lifting weights and exercising in earnest.

“To be completely healthy, you have to do the cardio,” he said. “It was pointless and ridiculous to work out and then go have a cigarette.”

“It’s got to be your own kind of motivation,” Fernholz continued. “You have to be completely fed up with what you’re doing and want to change.”

He agrees that high-profile cases such as Jennings’ “make you aware that smoking will kill you.”

“But I don’t think that’s what motivates you to quit,” Fernholz said. “Everyone knows that smoking will kill you. That’s not some hidden secret. You have to have you own motivations.”

Quitting is nonetheless arduous.

Walsh, the nurse, said she would still love to quit. Her motivation is her son, Louie, now 9. Walsh has begun taking Wellbutrin XL, an anti-depression medication also shown to help cut cigarette cravings. She is down to about 9 cigarettes each day, a record, having never gone below a pack a day.

“I’m planning on giving it a try again,” she said.

It will be a battle but I will win the war! Congratulations to everyone who is putting down the smokes!

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