Even in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s important to keep in mind that, if you’re a smoker, the benefits of quitting smoking can be remarkable. As we all know, smoking can increase your risk for lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, and can have negative impacts on just about every organ in your body. But once you stop smoking, those negative effects can begin to reverse themselves – and fast. Within a year of quitting, for example, your risk of heart disease drops significantly. Other health risks also decrease the longer you remain a non-smoker. Still, quitting smoking is no easy task, and sometimes a little help can be just the thing you need to achieve lifelong smoking cessation.
Blount Memorial Business Health programs nurse supervisor Kathy Yarlett says smoking cessation classes can be extremely helpful. “Blount Memorial Business Health has been offering smoking cessation classes to local companies for more than 10 years,” she said. “The classes follow the American Lung Association’s ‘Freedom From Smoking’ program guidelines, which emphasize behavior change to stop smoking and maintenance to keep you from falling back into the habit. The first step is realizing that you’re dependent on cigarettes, which is necessary for actual behavior change to take place. It’s here where we also focus on discussing the factors that trigger a person’s desire to smoke and help him or her find and develop better coping skills. We also look at some of the potential medications that can aid a person who is trying to quit,” she explained. “All of this typically is done in a group setting, which lets each participant feel supported in his or her journey to stop smoking. Due to COVID-19, however, this year, we’ve been using teleconferencing tools such as ‘GoToMeeting’ to keep the classes going since we know people still need them for help with quitting smoking,” she explained.
“We typically pair each person off with a partner so they can listen to one another’s concerns and pull for each other to succeed,” Yarlett continued. “We also ask them to look for situations in which they would be at a higher risk for needing to smoke and anticipate those situations to avoid having a relapse. Eventually, we reach out to former smokers to show participants that long-term smoking cessation is not only possible, but also can be life-changing. This also encourages participants to want to come back one day and be in that group of long-term non-smokers themselves,” she added. “It’s one thing to change the behavior, but it’s another to maintain it, so seeing people who have already been down the road of quitting is critical for people who want to quit themselves,” she added.
Throughout the smoking cessation program, Yarlett says, participants are encouraged to work on better lifestyle habits, as well. “We try to shift their focus to physical activity as a long-term maintenance technique,” she said. “Little behavior adjustments such as taking a walk during the time a person would usually take a smoke break can have substantial health benefits. We focus on getting that on a person’s daily schedule and getting him or her into a structured plan for activity. The goal is to shift a person’s mindset and lifestyle to that of a ‘non-smoker,’” she explained. “Finally, you have to celebrate victories. Quitting smoking isn’t easy and rewarding that positive behavior is critical in achieving long-term success,” she added.
For more information about Blount Memorial Business Health’s smoking cessation program, call 865-977-5795.